Health Law Highlights

OCR Doubles Down: Two Settlements in Two Months for Two Common Cybersecurity Issues

From Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP, by Ike Willett & Cory Brennan:

  • On December 7, 2023, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office for Civil Rights (OCR), announced a settlement with a Louisiana medical group following a phishing attack that affected the PHI of approximately 34,862 individuals.
  • This marks the first settlement OCR has resolved involving a phishing attack under HIPAA Rules, and comes just weeks after another settlement with a Massachusetts medical management company for a ransomware attack affecting 206,695 individuals.
  • These settlements serve as a reminder for all health care entities to regularly review and update their risk analysis, implement audit controls, utilize multi-factor authentication, and provide ongoing workforce training to mitigate the impact of cyber-attacks.
  • In addition to a $100,000 settlement, the agreement with the medical management company requires them to operate in accordance with a Corrective Action Plan (CAP) for three years, which includes updating their risk analysis and implementing security measures.
  • The health care industry continues to be a prime target for cyber threats, with a significant increase in reported breaches involving hacking and ransomware. Organizations should seek qualified legal counsel and regularly review their compliance practices to prepare for potential breaches or regulatory investigations.