$3M HIPAA Settlement for Hospital Failing Repeatedly to Encrypt Patient Data Over 10 Years

According to the HHS this hospital reported a breach in 2010, was given a warning with technical assistance, then was breached again in 2013 and 2017.

URMC filed breach reports with OCR in 2013 and 2017 following its discovery that protected health information (PHI) had been impermissibly disclosed through the loss of an unencrypted flash drive and theft of an unencrypted laptop, respectively. OCR’s investigation revealed that URMC failed to conduct an enterprise-wide risk analysis; implement security measures sufficient to reduce risks and vulnerabilities to a reasonable and appropriate level; utilize device and media controls; and employ a mechanism to encrypt and decrypt electronic protected health information (ePHI) when it was reasonable and appropriate to do so. Of note, in 2010, OCR investigated URMC concerning a similar breach involving a lost unencrypted flash drive and provided technical assistance to URMC. Despite the previous OCR investigation, and URMC’s own identification of a lack of encryption as a high risk to ePHI, URMC permitted the continued use of unencrypted mobile devices.

Encryption is not that hard, especially for mobile devices. Flash drives and laptops are trivial to enable and manage keys. It’s not a technical problem, it’s a management/leadership one, which is why these regulatory fines probably should be even larger and go directly into executive pockets.

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