It's no longer enough to protect the network from just external hackers because there are plenty of insiders who have too much access to data, according to a security expert.
Two recent incidents at a hospital and a radiology lab
highlight the importance of securing medical data from both internal and
Three employees and a contracted nurse at Tucson's
University Medical Center were fired for accessing confidential patient
records, according to the Arizona
Daily Star. Katie Riley, the hospital's spokesperson, said "We are not
aware of any confidential patient information being released publicly."
The fired employees had accessed records of some of the victims
from the Jan. 8 shooting spree, where 13 were wounded and six killed, according
to the Associated Press. Riley did not disclose how many patients were affected
by the unauthorized record access of privacy or their identities. Nor would the
hospital disclose whether Arizona congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords, recovering
from a gunshot wound to the head, was part of the breach or what kind of information
All patients and their family have been notified, according
In order to ensure patient privacy, UMC uses "sophisticated
technology" to prevent and detect inappropriate access, Riley said.
However, the "fundamental issue" was that in most
organizations, "trust is granted to staff, allowing them access to massive
amounts of an organization's most sensitive data," Glenn Hazard, Xceedium CEO,
told eWEEK in an e-mail. Mobile and cloud computing also "pave the way" for
these trusted individuals to transfer and share breached data with others,
Malicious (intentionally or unintentionally) insiders are
often in positions of trust and it's not always clear what activities are trusted.
The best chance of catching people intent on accessing confidential information
is to "enforce zero-trust access control," Hazard said.
In a zero-trust environment, only the exact information the
user needs is revealed and nothing else.. Instead of giving layers of access,
where some people have higher levels of trust than others and only anomalies
are tracked, zero-trust access control means all network traffic is logged and
Organizations should protect their data internally much in
the same way they protect the data from external threats. Organizations can no
longer "extend that level of trust" to insiders when it comes to "powerful"
information, such as electronic medical records, said Hazard.
External data threats can also come from many directions,
whether it's someone trying to gain access to identity information or a group
trying to use system resources. In November, a group of gaming enthusiasts
hacked into a server storing sensitive medical information for more than
230,000 patients, said Seacoast Radiology, a practice based in New Hampshire.
The hackers were using the server tohost the "Call of Duty: Black Ops" computer
game, according to Seacoast Radiology. The patients were notified since the
servers contained names, social security numbers, medical diagnosis codes and
The breach was discovered after an administratator noticed "a
loss of bandwidth," said Lisa MacKenzie, a spokeswoman for ID Experts, a security firm brought
in by Seacoast Radiology to look into the breach. Investigators don't believe
the hackers accessed any patient information, but the incident is still under
The network vulnerability that made the compromise possible
has been discovered and fixed and the data breach was reported to New Hampshire's
attorney general, as required under state law. It is unclear how long the
players had been abusing the server.
These incidents demonstrate that security must be "ubiquitous"
throughout the network, not just at the perimeter, according to John Kindervag
of Forrester Research.