Security Market Segment LS
Thursday, 12 April 2018 08:07

Health service providers head list of breaches under new law


Sixty-three data breach notifications have been received by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner since the Australian data breach notification law came into effect on 22 February.

In its first quarterly report on on data breach notifications received under the Notifiable Data Breaches scheme, the OAIC said this compared to 114 notifications which it had received for the entire 2016-17 year.

The NDB scheme requires entities with obligations to secure personal information under the Privacy Act 1988 to notify individuals when their personal information is involved in a data breach that is likely to result in serious harm.

These data breaches are referred to as "eligible data breaches". Entities must also notify the OAIC about eligible data breaches.

Health service providers comprised 24% of the breaches reported, followed by legal, accounting and management services (16%). finance (13%), private education (10%) and charities (6%).

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Of the 63 breaches reported, 78% revealed individual contact information, 33% contained health information and 30% involved financial details.

Fifty-one percent of the eligible notifications indicated that the breach was due to human error, 44% resulted from malicious or criminal attack and 3% were caused by system errors.

In 59% of the cases, the personal information of one to nine individuals was compromised while 90% related to breaches that involved the personal information of less than 1000 individuals.

The fact that health service providers were the biggest single industry sector affected did not surprise Jason Edelstein, the chief technology officer of information security services provider Sense of Security.

“This isn’t surprising due to the rise of Internet-connected medical devices, as part of the growing Internet of Things trend," he said. "The benefits of these devices has seen many hospitals and healthcare facilities rapidly introduce them with little thought to the security implications of connecting them to the network.

“Exasperating the problem is the fact (that) vendors are currently in an arms race to bring products to market, to gain a competitive advantage. This means network connected apps and devices are rushed to market with very limited security protocols in place.”

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Edelstein said the potential risk of hackers accessing medical devices was huge. "Not only would hackers be able to get hold of the information held on these devices, such as personal information or medical history, but because these devices are network-connected, hackers can essentially use them as an open door into the hospitals' wider network. That’s access to all patient files, billing systems and other sensitive information.”

He said malicious attackers could target an individual with one of the intelligent implants if they so wished and, once they gained access to the device, they could tamper with the controls.

"This could cause anything from a bad night’s rest to death, particularly for patients with pacemakers and respirators," he said. "While healthcare and hospitals are no more vulnerable than other sectors, the consequences are much more dangerous.

"Our information, sensitive data and well-being are all vulnerable if security is not made a priority. The best thing the healthcare industry can do is to educate its employees about security awareness. After all, they are in the business of saving lives, and getting them cyber-trained can help them do just that.”

Graphics: courtesy OAIC

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Sam Varghese

Sam Varghese has been writing for iTWire since 2006, a year after the site came into existence. For nearly a decade thereafter, he wrote mostly about free and open source software, based on his own use of this genre of software. Since May 2016, he has been writing across many areas of technology. He has been a journalist for nearly 40 years in India (Indian Express and Deccan Herald), the UAE (Khaleej Times) and Australia (Daily Commercial News (now defunct) and The Age). His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.

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