The hacking of medical clinic employee’s email account during travels overseas demonstrates the risks posed to data when workers travel – and the need to mitigate those risks.
Billings Clinic in Montana – which includes a multispecialty group practice with a 304-bed hospital and a Level II trauma center – says in a breach notification statement it became aware on May 14 of “unusual activity” within one of its employee’s email accounts.
The employee was traveling overseas on a medical mission at the time of the hacking incident, according to the statement.
Billing Clinic says it took immediate action to disable access to the email account, launched an investigation to determine what happened and took action to further secure its email system.
“As a result of the forensic investigation, we learned that an unauthorized individual had access to emails and attachments within that one account, some of which included patient information.”
The types of information on 8,400 individuals included in the affected email account include patient name, date of birth, contact information, the medical record number, internal financial control number, diagnosis and limited information about medical services received, the clinic reports.
“Each patient had different types of information, included in the emails, and no one email contained all of these types of information,” the notification statement says.
As of July 16, the hacking incident was not the Department of Health and Human Services’ HIPAA Breach Reporting Tool website – commonly called the “wall of shame” – that lists breaches affecting 500 or more individuals.
That breach tally, however, lists a different hacking/IT incident reported in April by Billings Clinic that impacted 949 individuals.
In a notification statement posted on Billings Clinic’s website about the earlier incident, the clinic says that on February 26, it also became aware of unusual activity within its email system, and immediately took action to disable the account.
A Billings Clinic spokesman tells Information Security Media Group that the two breaches were separate incidents, but declined to discuss further details, including the steps the clinic is taking to bolster security in the wake of the breaches.
The spokesman also declined to discuss whether the traveling employee in the latest breach was traveling with a Billings Clinic laptop or other mobile computing devices, or whether the employee had been accessing Billings Clinic’s email system while using a personally owned computing device or smartphone.
Data breaches occurring during employee travel are a common but often overlooked problem, says Rebecca Herold, president of Simbus, a privacy, and cloud security services firm, and CEO of The Privacy Professor consultancy.
“It is very common for data and devices to be hacked while traveling and for those who were hacked to not even realize it.”
—Consultant Rebecca Herold
“It is very common for data and devices to be hacked while traveling and for those who were hacked to not even realize it,” she says. “People are often unaware of what is going on around them when they are traveling. They are using any charger station they can find, they speak loudly and they use free Wi-Fi,” she says.
Cybercriminals routinely scan free Wi-Fi networks and copy unsecured transmissions, including emails, she says.
“Shoulder surfing is also still very common; it’s a decades-old tactic that still works effectively today. And the skimmers on charging stations are increasing in use. Don’t think that if you are in a frequent flyer lounge that these things do not happen there; they happen in those exclusive lounge areas possibly more than in other places,” she warns.
Cybercriminals often target travelers, Herold says, because “it is easy for them to commit their crimes without getting caught because there is usually no digital evidence created.”
Mac McMillan, CEO of security consultancy CynergisTek, offers a similar assessment: “Any time you travel overseas you may be at greater risk as local cybercriminals will have access to your mobile devices, the locations where you are staying or the ISPs their networks and your traffic is traversing.”
Healthcare entities and other organizations – and their traveling staff members – should review information from the Federal Communications Commission, Department of Homeland Security, and other agencies for tips on securing their computing devices while overseas, McMillan stresses.
“The problem is that most private businesses don’t educate their employees on these risks,” he says. Government agencies “routinely brief employees on foreign travel risks and are always aware that overseas we are potential targets.”
Steps to Take
McMillan advises workers on vacation to “leave the work computer at home. Temporarily suspend access to sensitive apps and work email, and do not permit mail forwarding.”
But if remote access is absolutely required, he says, “employ two-factor authentication on both apps and email, and strong encryption on all devices. Use different passwords or pins when you travel. Do not make online purchases or go to your online banking site. Clear your cache regularly. Turn off auto-join on your Wi-Fi. If traveling for more than a few days, reset your settings. Above all keep your devices with you at all times and shielded from view.”
Keith Fricke, a consultant at tw-Security, notes that some companies issue a laptop specifically for overseas travel that is locked down more than normal and has fewer applications on it.
There have been reports of some private airplane flights having “hidden cameras” in them recording information on the screens of laptops passengers used laptops during the flight, he says. “Stories also exist of hidden cameras in hotels of certain foreign countries or people entering hotel rooms when the occupant left the room for meetings or a meal. The intruder looked for ways to obtain unauthorized access to information,” he notes.
Herold advises organizations to take a number of precautions to reduce the risk of breaches while individuals are traveling.
“Implement policies for employees to not use public Wi-Fi,” she stresses. “Provide secured virtual private network or similar types of solutions for remote access. I carry my own device that I use to establish a private VPN connection. I never use public Wi-Fi, or the Wi-Fi in the hotels or restaurants either.”
Organizations should also require that data be encrypted in transit and in storage, she says. “That way, if someone gets access through a network, the data is not accessible. If they get access to the device, the data is not accessible.”
Herold also advises employers to “provide information security and privacy reminders and awareness communications of other types prior to employee travel so that they have the need to practice safe mobile computing at top of mind.”
Author: Marianne Kolbasuk McGee
Source: infoRisk Today
Employers have learned (the hard way) that one of the biggest security threats in the organization is their own staff.
A report published by Ipswitch looks at data breach causes to find out how rogue employees rank. An interesting find is that up to 75% of data breaches result from insider threats, while a separate report by Veriato suggests that 90% of cybersecurity experts feel that their company is vulnerable to insider attacks. In fact, about 50% of the 472 professionals surveyed said they had suffered these attacks in the previous 12 months.
Deliberate or not, these threats are very real and as heavily as companies might invest in data security software, they are always going to be vulnerable because they continually ignore a large component of realizing fewer cybersecurity threats.
Since employees (insiders) have access to company information, they are technically a bigger danger to data security than the third party cyber-criminals who use all manner of innovative ways to gain access to personal data.
A curious business owner wants to know: Why must I involve employees in implementing data security when they have been shown to be a weak point in the same strategy?
1. Social engineering transcends security tools
Human error is often the weakest link in an otherwise ideal chain. From technology to literature, social engineering is the big boss you have to beat after meeting all the other mini-bosses.
By definition, social engineering involves the use of psychological tricks to manipulate people into revealing sensitive information about themselves. For an organization, once the hacker has your employee at this point, they can gain access to all the areas the employee can typically access. Through social engineering security awareness you can help your employees avoid the three commonest security scams thereby protecting your company as well: identity theft; vishing; and baiting.
Without adequate education on social engineering and covering that loophole, security tools are almost useless.
2. It’s part of their responsibility
Apart from preventing the catastrophic aftermath of social engineering, data security is the responsibility of every employee in the organization in this sense: if consumers expect organizations to protect their data, isn’t it the responsibility of employees to make sure the data doesn’t land in the wrong hands?
Dropbox’s 2012 incident, during which hackers reportedly stole data belonging to over 60 million of Dropbox’s clients at the time, was attributed to employee negligence.
As reported, the hackers who used the password of the employee were able to access the company portal by reusing a password from the LinkedIn breach of the same year that exposed the emails and passwords of 117 million LinkedIn users.
Such an example shows that as a company, you can still unwillingly betray your customers. While Dropbox wasn’t entirely to blame, one of their employees reusing passwords was a great insight into the company’s internal security standards and more importantly, a good example for all employees on password don’ts.
3. It is now a common regulatory requirement
Through internet security awareness training, organizations are required to equip their staff with knowledge about data security. Some of the laws, regulations and industry codes include HIPAA, FTC Red Flags Rule and PCI DSS among others. While many SMEs don’t do any training to remain compliant, many conduct the training to avoid cyber-attacks.
These tips will help you implement a great training program:
- Diversify your training methods. Have a mix of training techniques at your disposal including classrooms, videos, team discussions, newsletters, posters, etc.
- Educate often. Conduct regular training in monthly, quarterly, or annual cycles.
- There’s no one size that fits all. Different members at different levels will start learning at equally different points.
- Don’t ignore industry regulations.
Don’t be like the owner who delegates the role of data security to themselves because it’s “too important.” If you really want to be stress-free, train your employees well and promote a culture of information security.
Author: Joseph Chukwube
The FBI recently noted a decline in ransomware attacks reported to the agency in 2017, at 1,783 compared to 2,673 the previous year. But don’t necessarily read this as good news. The reality is ransomware, like many other cyber-attack types, goes largely under-reported. A Verizon report, based on its analysis of tens of thousands of real-world security incidents, found that ransomware incidents have doubled over the past year.
Ransomware is a class of malware that locks your system and encrypts vital files. Attackers usually demand a cryptocurrency payment to release the files, but there’s no guarantee they will actually do so after receiving payment.
Attackers have typically cast the net wide, but criminals are becoming more sophisticated about how they can maximize profit.
“We used to hear very often it was mostly consumers – but [for those attacks] you’re looking at $75 as a cyber-criminal,” says Theresa Payton, former Whitehouse CIO who’s now president and CEO of Fortalice Solutions. “Why do that when you can go from a mom and pop shop all the way up to the Fortune 50?
“And that’s what they’re doing. They’re hitting all businesses, targeting Any business connected to the internet – and what business isn’t?”
In 2017 the WannaCry, NotPetya, and BadRabbit strains didn’t just disrupt business processes; they hobbled infrastructure and hurt international brands like FedEx. This took the ransomware threat vector to a “completely new level,” using worms to propagate through systems and impacting 300-400,000 devices worldwide, says Steven Wilson, head of Europol’s EC3 cyber-crime center.
And the rise of off-the-shelf kits that can be bought online for just dollars puts ransomware tools in the hands of anyone with the will to use them.
The organizational impact can be severe, ranging from downtime to reputational damage. One official British report suggested that the public response to WannaCry had even undermined trust in government.
“Just think: your entire customer records database is gone,” says Wilson. “You don’t know who owes you money, who you owe money to, or who you’re going to sell your product to. That’s the reality if ransomware strikes you. Everything is gone.”
If there is a positive outcome, it’s that WannaCry raised awareness that ransomware is here to stay: an unfortunate case of “if” and not “when”.Fortunately, there are basic cyber hygiene steps you can introduce to avert potential disaster.
Often it’s the unpredictable human element that’s the weakest link in cyber defense, so awareness training can go a long way.
On the technical side, it’s making sure your systems are up to date and fully patched so that the latest versions of your operating systems are running with trusted anti-malware solutions and the latest definitions.
And if the worst happens, maintain a recovery plan with a full set of backups.
According to Payton, organizations should also consider network segmentation and be introducing kill switches to prevent malware from moving laterally, as WannaCry did.
“Practice for the worst and hope for the best – making sure you’re thinking ahead, practicing that digital disaster, practicing your comms plan,” suggests Payton, adding that organizations should also perform test runs on full restores.
How can the technology community help?
Public and private bodies must work together with vulnerabilities out in the open, collaborating to prevent or mitigate future disasters. NoMoreRansom, for example, pools resources across organizations to provide decryptors for known threats.