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Complete Health Systems at SIIA

CHS will be at the SIIA conference coming up in October! Please plan to stop by our booth (#500).

 

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HHS' OFFICE OF CIVIL RIGHTS ALERT PUBLIC OF POTENTIAL CYBER SECURITY RISK

By: Nicola Heredia, CHS Marketing Coordinator

On November 28, the Health and Human Services’ Office of Civil Rights made an announcement alerting the public that there was a potential security risk at play. A phishing email was circulating impersonating the OCR’s director in an effort to trick individuals into opening the email.

The email’s layout appeared official and focused on employees of HIPAA covered entities. The goal of the email was to entice readers to click on the link. This would direct them to a non-governmental website that was unrelated to the OCR. 

Alerting individuals that this email exists helps to eliminate the security risk that this type of email can cause. Unfortunately, the trouble is identifying real emails from potentially dangerous, phishing emails.

The HHS worked to help the public identify these emails by pointing out specific elements of the email that are typical of phishing emails. For example, the sender’s email address is OSOCRAudit@hhs-gov.us, which is very similar to the correct and official email address of the OCR, OSOCRAudit@hhs.gov. The web address that individuals are directed to in the email has similar likenesses to the HHS site.

These similarities are in an effort to trick unsuspecting individuals into opening emails, clicking on unsecure links and potentially providing sensitive information. The subtle differences within these emails make it difficult to identify a phishing email from a real one.

The fear of cyber breeches continues to be a reality as more and more communication and information is exchanged electronically. Potential security threats have placed a heavy burden on companies and other agencies to invest in technological security to reduce their exposure.

“These attacks just keep happening over and over again. Businesses are very anxious, and even fearful,” said Scott Logan, technical director of security for NetGain Technologies Inc., in a The Lane Report article. “Many of these attacks could not only force you to lose information, but they could also ruin your brand. If you’re a bank and you become breached, how do you assure your customers that you’re going to be able to protect their money?”

Although the emails themselves might not look dangerous, clicking on the links and potentially providing information can lead to serious problems. If the link contains malware, a virus can quickly take over the computer and network, allowing hackers access to sensitive electronic records.

Ransomeware is one virus that essentially holds the computer and the files hostage unless a predetermined fee is paid. The information is encrypted once the computer is infected and after the ransom is paid, the hackers provide a code to allow access to the computer.

“We’ve seen people pay that ransom. It can be very devastating,” Joe Danaher, vice president of operations for Integrity IT, in the Lane Report article. “And it’s not just a new threat every couple of months. We’re seeing new threats and new variations on these viruses every day.”

The need to stay on top of security risks is becoming more and more essential with the growth of electronic software systems, data storage and more. The public can expect to see more alerts similar to the OCR's as businesses and other entities try to lower the risk of a cyber attack.

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