What is Cyber Insurance?

Typical general liability insurance does not cover cyber events such as data breaches, ransomware, business email compromise or other breach expenses such as forensics, breach/legal coaching, public relations or credit monitoring. Events such as these can cause a lot of monetary and reputation damage to a small to medium-sized business (SMB). In addition to these events, certain companies are at risk for fines and penalties related to HIPAA, PCI or GDPR violations. A cyber insurance policy should bridge these types of insurance gaps for you. 

What is the Standard for Cyber Insurance?

Cyber insurance is a quickly-evolving product that is still fairly new. No standards exist, but here’s a list of coverages to consider when purchasing a policy:

  • Data liability. This covers damages and defense costs resulting from any claim against the insured from a data breach that compromises personal information. It should also cover claims alleging that information has been lost or compromised as a result of unauthorized access to, or use of, the insured’s computer systems. It is important that the policy covers not only an individual’s personal information but also employee data and confidential corporate information. Many organizations possess third-party trade secrets, customer lists, marketing plans and other information that could be beneficial to competitors and may result in liability if compromised.
  • Media liability. This insures damages and defense costs resulting from any claim against the insured for infringement of copyright and other intellectual property rights, as well as misappropriation or theft of ideas or media content. While coverage may not extend to content published in a personal capacity, this should ideally be included, as organizations may face significant liabilities as a result of employees using Twitter, Facebook and other social media.
  • Regulatory coverage. This covers the costs of response to any administrative, government or regulatory investigation following a data breach or cyber attack, as well as any fines or penalties imposed.  However, this coverage is typically limited to civil fines and penalties, as criminal fines and penalties are not insurable in many jurisdictions. Some regulators, including the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) and the Securities Exchange Commission (SEC), prohibit regulated firms from recovering from insurers any fines or penalties the regulators impose.
  • Remediation coverage. Most policies provide coverage for additional costs associated with a data breach, including the costs incurred to notify those affected and relevant authorities, provide credit monitoring for those affected and set up call centers to field inquiries from concerned clients. Coverage may also extend to the costs of forensic services to determine the cause and scope of a breach, as well as public relations expenses and other crisis management costs.
  • Information assets coverage. The policy may include coverage for costs of recreating, restoring or repairing the company’s own data and computer systems. This may also extend to third-party data that has not been captured by back-up systems or that has been corrupted or lost because of negligence or technical failure.
  • Network interruption coverage. The policy may cover lost revenue from network interruptions or disruptions because of a denial of service attack, malicious code or other security threats.
  • Extortion coverage. Many policies insure the costs of responding to ransom or extortion demands to prevent a threatened cyber attack.

Specialized cyber insurance is no longer optional for SMBs as they are the fastest growing target for cyber criminals.

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About the Author

Tracy Hardin is President and founder of Next Century Technologies in Lexington, KY. She has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Kentucky and has earned certifications from Novell, Cisco and CompTIA. Her specialties in the field of IT are network design and security, project management and improving productivity through technology. She loves helping people by sharing her knowledge of tech.

What is DLP – Data Loss Prevention

Businesses need to protect sensitive data from being inadvertently disclosed via e-mail or shared cloud. Microsoft has implemented data loss prevention or DLP into its Office 365 and Microsoft 365 products. Microsoft will actually scan the contents of emails looking for protected data and stop it from being sent.

Check out our video for a quick peek of how it works:

Why is DLP important?

  • Many businesses fall under government or sector-based regulations that require safeguarding certain types of data 
  • Businesses want to protect their private data and their customer’s data
  • Businesses want to protect their reputation – breaches make the news!
  • Employees make mistakes
  • Employees will sometimes steal information

Who should use DLP?

Any businesses that deal with credit card numbers, social security numbers, passport numbers or any other personally identifiable information (PII) including health records should implement DLP. PCI and HIPAA are both areas that are very concerned with protecting PII. CPAs and bookkeepers need to protect social security numbers and other information commonly found on tax forms. Law firms may be dealing with cases related to PII. 

Which Office 365 Plans come standard with DLP?

  • Exchange Online Plan 2
  • Enterprise E3
  • Enterprise E5

Have questions? We can help!

Next Century Technologies has been helping businesses with IT since 2001! Call us at 859-245-0582 or click here to reach out to us.

About the Author

Tracy Hardin is President and founder of Next Century Technologies in Lexington, KY. She has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Kentucky and has earned certifications from Novell, Cisco and CompTIA. Her specialties in the field of IT are network design and security, project management and improving productivity through technology. She loves helping people by sharing her knowledge of tech.

How to Stop Ransomware Attacks

Today the official website of the Department of Homeland Security released a document titled “Steps to Safeguard Against Ransomware Attacks”. It was a short article, but lets delve into it a little more deeply.

The recommendations were aimed at state and local governments to build resilience against ransomware. Fortunately, what works for them works for businesses as well! Here are the three steps they recommend:

  1. Back up systems-now (and daily). This is the most critical of the three steps, hence it is number one. It says do it “now”. Its critical the backups are on a separate device, NOT another computer on the network! Ransomware players seek out your backups and attempt to sabotage them before the files are encrypted. Get those backups off-site and protected by another layer of security. Of course once the files are encrypted, the files in the backup are encrypted. Back up every day, multiple times a day is even better. Use a different username and password for the backups. Better yet, pick a backup solution that has ransomware detection and don’t forget TEST THOSE BACKUPS! If you can’t restore successfully, they are worthless. Next Century Technologies provides a backup product that tests backups nightly, has built-in ransomware detection and has its own username and password. Have you checked your backups lately?
  2. Reinforce basic cyber security awareness and education. Most successful ransomware campaigns started with a social engineering attack. Phishing emails, or fake support calls are the most popular. Train  your employees on how to recognize these attacks. Train and re-train. An educational program that offers regular training on the latest attacks is most effective. These guys come up with very creative ways to manipulate people! Next Century Technologies offers programs that can train your employees right from their computers on a regular basis.
  3. Revisit and refine cyber security incident response plans. What is your plan if you are attacked? This one is a little different for non-government agencies. Do you have a trusted IT adviser? Do you have a business continuity plan? If not, we would love to talk to you!

 

 

 

About the Author

Tracy Hardin is President and founder of Next Century Technologies in Lexington, KY. She has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Kentucky and has earned certifications from Novell, Cisco and CompTIA. Her specialties in the field of IT are network design and security, project management and improving productivity through technology. She loves helping people by sharing her knowledge of tech.

Tracy caught the picture of this 6 ft. rat snake hiding in a neighbor’s tree in an idyllic Lexington suburb. Its a reminder of how security is sometimes an illusion.

Why SMBs Fail After a Cyberattack

Malicious cyberattacks are increasing every day around the globe. In fact, cyber-incidents nearly doubled from 82,000 incidents in 2016, to 159,700 in 2017. While the media often depicts large corporations as the primary target for cyberattacks, small business are just as likely – if not more likely to be targeted. An article on CSO looks at why small- to medium-size enterprises (SMEs) and small- to medium-size businesses (SMBs) often fall victim to cyberattacks, in many cases leaving them unable to recover.

1.       Unable to afford IT staff

With so many key entry points where a hacker can gain access to an organization’s data, it is critical that a proper IT team is in place. Not only is it important to have an IT team in place to implement the appropriate security measures, but it is also necessary to have IT managing and maintaining daily operations of those security systems, which can be a difficult task.

For a company that allows BYOD and is connected to different cloud services, this means the IT department has to protect 4 main security components; the user identity, the device used, the network they’re connected to and the cloud services they’re using. This normally leads to purchasing at least 4 different security platforms.

While staffing an IT department may not be an issue for large corporations, many SMEs and SMBs simply cannot afford it. In many cases, small businesses may only have one individual responsible for managing their IT, and in most instances, nobody is properly managing their computers and networks.  With inadequate resources, it comes as no surprise that cybercriminals are targeting SMEs and SMBs and exploiting their vulnerabilities. Outsourcing IT to a team of experts helps SMEs and SMBs who do not have the need or the money to hire full-time staff. “Managed Service Providers” provide IT outsourcing that specializes in purchasing hardware/software, installing and maintaining those investments, as well as supporting and protecting them. Next Century Technologies is a Managed Service Provider for both small and medium-sized businesses.

2.       Lack ongoing cybersecurity training

SMEs and SMBs often lack the resources to effectively train their employees on security, which is another reason cybercriminals see them as an easy target. If employees are not provided with proper security training, their poor security habits can provide easy access to a cybercriminal. Not only is initial onboarding training important, but ongoing security training is a must to ensure employees are kept up-to-date on current threats and how to mitigate and/or respond to them.

With many security training programs being expensive and out-of-budget for SMEs and SMBs, their employees often go untrained and unaware of what threats are out there. Not only does the lack of training keep employees in the dark about how to spot a potential threat, but it also leaves them unaware of how to respond if an attack occurs, especially if that attack is malware or ransomware.

According to the National Cyber Security Alliance, 60% of hacked SMEs and SMBs go out of business, because they simply don’t know the way forward.”

Training doesn’t have to take a lot of time and doesn’t require a classroom. Employees can do training right from their desktops or laptops. Contact Next Century Technologies to learn how inexpensive, yet effective, an on-going training program can be. 

3.       The devastating impact of Ransomware

Ransomware has quickly become a preferred method of attack for cybercriminals. In fact, Ransomware was reported as the fasted growing threat in cybersecurity in 2017. Typically, in a ransomware attack, the outcome favors the attacker rather than the victim. While large corporations may have the funds to pay the ransom demanded by a cybercriminal, SMEs and SMBs typically do not. Even if the ransom is paid, there is no guarantee that the files will be returned to the organization or that those files weren’t accessed by the attacker. SMEs and SMBs are often left devastated by these attacks and in many cases, unable to recover.

There is no sure way to avoid Ransomware, but a good business continuity/disaster recovery plan is critical to surviving a Ransomware attack. Ask us how we can help you design a business continuity plan and a backup solution to complement it.

4.     The internet makes a bad reputation difficult to ignore

It is an expectation that organizations who are serving customers will protect their information and keep it safe. When a company drops the ball in keeping their customer’s personal information secure, the customer often feels violated and seeks financial restitution for the incident. Not only does this exposure of information result in potentially steep monetary costs, but also leads to bad press for the organization. In the age of the internet, bad press can permanently damage a company’s reputation, sending current customers looking elsewhere for service and drive potential customers away.

While large corporations may have the funds to hire legal teams to fight for them in court as well as PR teams to help with the bad press, SMEs and SMBs often do not have that option. Not only do SMEs and SMBs often have to deal with bad press on their own, but also find themselves battling monetary costs associated with fines from the breach.

Loss of private data could also lead to massive fines by authorities if HIPAA, CFPB, GDPR, or other regulations were breached in the attack. Such fines could be absorbed by a large company but devastate a smaller organization.”

The future of cybersecurity for SMEs and SMBs

One advantage that SMEs and SMBs have on large corporations is their ability to make change quickly. While large corporations may have a long formal process to go through to implement change, SMEs and SMBs can typically bypass the complexity and act fast.

Next Century Technologies has solutions designed just for SMEs and SMBs that fit their needs when it comes to protecting themselves and training their employees.

 

About the Author

Tracy Hardin is President and founder of Next Century Technologies in Lexington, KY. She has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Kentucky and has earned certifications from Novell, Cisco and CompTIA. Her specialties in the field of IT are network design and security, project management and improving productivity through technology. She loves helping people by sharing her knowledge of tech.

10 Cybersecurity Tips for Businesses

In 2018, 71% of ransomware attacks targeted small businesses, according to a report by Beazley Breach Response Services. It’s clear that small businesses are a cybercriminals favorite target, yet many remain unprepared to handle a cyber-attack.

Is it that small businesses don’t care about cybersecurity?

It wouldn’t be fair to make that assumption; however, small businesses do often overlook cybersecurity concerns. This could be the result of many different things. For example, small businesses often do not have the resources to dedicate to cybersecurity. In fact, some of those businesses don’t have a dedicated IT individual/company at all. In some instances, small businesses may be carrying the “it won’t happen to me mentality” – despite plenty of statistics stating that small businesses are the most susceptible to a cyber-attack. And then there is the complexity of the topic. Many organizations don’t understand cybersecurity. Mix the lack of understanding with the other reasons that cybersecurity is often overlooked, it’s easy for small businesses to put it on the back burner and forget about it.

Out of sight, out of mind

Another reason it’s hard to get organizations to care about cybersecurity is that “if they can’t see it, it isn’t there”. It’s easy to take physical security of your organization seriously. You know that you must lock the office door when you leave, or that leaving medication unlocked and unsupervised could lead to its disappearance.

Unfortunately, cybersecurity doesn’t work the same way. Organizations can be told about cybersecurity risks and best practices, but not being able to physically see the danger makes it difficult to care or prioritize those safeguards above others. Think about it, you’ve used the same password for everything, for years. It’s not a difficult password so it’s easy for you to remember. You’ve heard that complex passwords are important, and you know you should never use the same password across multiple accounts, but you’ve been doing this for years and nothing bad has happened, so it’s probably not a concern for you. Cybersecurity is often out of sight, out of mind.

Healthcare organizations are especially vulnerable

The healthcare industry is the most targeted industry by cybercriminals. Many of the reasons for this are the same reasons that attackers target small businesses. Healthcare organizations also see a lot of turnover, which could translate to cybercriminals as new employees to target, many of which, may not be properly trained.

The value of healthcare data to a cybercriminal is also unparalleled. Medical records bring in big bucks on the dark web, allowing these attackers to see large returns for even just one successful attack.

Don’t wait till it’s too late

The worst mistake you can make is to think you’re not at risk, or not think cybersecurity is a high enough priority to do something about it. Small businesses need to take what we’ve learned about cybercriminals targeting them as a warning and act before they too become another statistic.

Cybersecurity tips

1. Recognize You’re a Target – First and foremost, you must accept that you are a target for cybercriminals. Every organization, small or large is a target and no industry is off limits. If cybercriminals see value in attacking your organization, they will.

2. Security Risk Assessment – It’s important to understand where your organization’s security gaps are. Perform a Risk Assessment to determine what safeguards should be in place but are not. For example, policies, data backup procedures, inactivity timers on your computers, etc.

Security Awareness Training helps!

3. Security Awareness Training – Employees must be trained on cybersecurity and understand how to spot malicious attempts made by cybercriminals. Employees should know how to spot a phishing email and the dangers of clicking attachments or URLs within emails, as these are common methods for a hacker to get in.

4. Complex Passwords – Passwords must be complex, reasonably long (at least 10 characters), and different across all accounts. Simple passwords can easily be cracked by cybercriminals through a brute-force attack, putting your entire organization at risk. Using repeat passwords across various accounts is also dangerous since one compromised password could give a hacker access to all your accounts.

5. Use a Password Manager – Managing several difficult passwords can be a difficult task, but password security should not be compromised for convenience. Using a password manager is a great way to ensure all passwords are secure. The best part is, you only need to remember one master password.

6. Enable Two-Factor Authentication – Sometimes referred to as 2FA, or multi-factor authentication, two-factor authentication is another layer of security for accessing your accounts, aside from you entering your credentials. 2FA requires a second form of authentication for you to successfully log in. For example, you may have to enter a 6-digit code sent to you via a text message to prove it is really you who is trying to log in.

7. Perform Updates – Ensure your software is being updated when updates become available. Software updates are often issued to fix a vulnerability found in the software. Not performing updates can often leave you susceptible to attacks that could have been prevented.

8. Regularly Backup Your Data – Do not underestimate the importance of routinely backing up your data. A cyber-attack could occur at any minute, and when it does, your data could be at risk. If your data becomes inaccessible or corrupt, through a ransomware attack, for example, you’ll need to be able to get that data another way – from your backups.

9. Audit accounts for suspicious activity – Make sure you’re performing audits on your systems. For example, if you have an EHR, you should be auditing it regularly looking for unusual activity, such as logins after hours, users accessing abnormal amounts of medical records. If inappropriate activity is occurring, the quicker you catch it the better off you’ll be.

10. Cyber Insurance – As cybercriminals continue to become more sophisticated, attacks will continue to occur. It’s no longer a matter of if your organization will be attacked, but when. Security incidents are incredibly costly, sometimes putting organizations out of business. Costs could include a breach coach, forensics, breach notification, credit monitoring, crisis management, and more. Verify that your organization has cyber insurance (this coverage is often not included in your standard policy) to protect you in the event of a security incident.

Have questions? We can help!

Next Century Technologies has been helping businesses with IT since 2001! Call us at 859-245-0582 or click here to reach out to us.

About the Author

Tracy Hardin is President and founder of Next Century Technologies in Lexington, KY. She has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Kentucky and has earned certifications from Novell, Cisco and CompTIA. Her specialties in the field of IT are network design and security, project management and improving productivity through technology. She loves helping people by sharing her knowledge of tech.

Five Greatest Cybersecurity Threats to Businesses

Here are the five greatest cybersecurity threats facing business owners:

E-mail Phishing Attacks

Those would be the fake e-mails that appear to come from a trusted source. They contain a malicious link or file attachment. The link may look identical to an authentic website to solicit your credentials or infect your network. The attachments will usually contain malware/viruses. Did you know that 92% of malware is delivered via e-mail now?

Ransomware Attacks

A type of malware that encrypts the data in effect making it useless unless the ransom is paid for the decryption key. There has been a 70% increase in ransomware attacks in the past two years. Click here to watch a short video from CBS 60 Minutes on how ransomware works.

Loss or Theft of Data or Equipment

Mobile devices such as smartphones, laptops, tablets, USB/thumb drives, etc. end up lost or stolen. These type of devices can easily be secured through the use of encryption. Windows 10 Pro comes with a license of BitLocker. USB/thumb drives can be purchased with encryption features but it will cost a little extra.

Insider, Accidental or Intentional Data Loss

Employee mistakes are the largest source of breaches, not hackers! Employees can easily mistaken a phishing e-mail as a real e-mail, especially if the “From” has been spoofed. Employees also inadvertently wire money out to phone scammers or e-mail scammers posing as legitimate customers or vendors. Hackers have been known to pay employees to download or e-mail sensitive data. 

Lack of an update policy

Microsoft and Apple identify and remedy security issues in their software through updates all the time. Such updates are free but require resources to implement. Desktops should be updated weekly, and servers need to be updated at least monthly.

Have questions? We can help!

Next Century Technologies has been helping businesses with IT since 2001! Call us at 859-245-0582 or click here to reach out to us.

About the Author

Tracy Hardin is President and founder of Next Century Technologies in Lexington, KY. She has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Kentucky and has earned certifications from Novell, Cisco and CompTIA. Her specialties in the field of IT are network design and security, project management and improving productivity through technology. She loves helping people by sharing her knowledge of tech.

What is a Risk Assessment?

As a reminder, one of the most important aspects of complying with the HIPAA Security Rule is to perform a Security Risk Assessment (also known as a Security Risk Analysis) to evaluate how an organization is protecting patient data.  Every organization covered by HIPAA (Covered Entities and Business Associates) must perform an SRA.  According to the Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the HHS division that enforces HIPAA, the SRA is THE most important document in HIPAA compliance.  It is the document that will first be looked at in any type of audit or investigation.

Why is a risk assessment so important?

Why is the SRA so important? Simply put, the output of the SRA will give you recommendations on how to reduce the risk of a data breach, which is what HIPAA security is all about.  

How does it work? The SRA looks at all systems that contain electronic protected health information (ePHI or patient information). It evaluates all the threats to ePHI,  looks at all vulnerabilities to the systems that contain ePHI and evaluates the current protections that are in place to protect ePHI. Based on all of the information that is gathered and evaluated the results of the SRA will show the areas of greatest risk of a breach, and provide a playbook (we call it the Work Plan) for how additional protections can lower the risk of a breach of patient information.

In addition to providing recommendations on how to reduce the risk of a data breach, the SRA process is widely considered to be a best practice in cybersecurity circles.  Cybersecurity is an issue for all organizations to deal with, not just HIPAA covered entities. Many organizations that are not in the healthcare field conduct regular SRAs as a way of reducing risk in their business and helping keep their business systems operational.

There are several methods used to perform an SRA.  Our partner, HIPAA Secure Now!, follows a process from the National Institute of Standards (NIST) called 800-30.  The 800-30 guideline is recommended by HHS/OCR for performing SRAs.  HIPAA Secure Now! has been involved in audits, investigations, and reviews with different regulatory bodies, and every time our SRA has been accepted as valid.

For many organizations, an SRA can be a time-consuming process.  Not so with HIPAA Secure Now! clients.  We have spent many years perfecting a process that minimizes the amount of time required to perform a comprehensive SRA.  

As mentioned above, the SRA will point out areas where the risk of a data breach can be reduced.   A key point is that it is not possible to eliminate all risks. No matter how much an organization spends to implement additional security measures, some risks cannot be completely eliminated. The goal of implementing the recommendations of a risk assessment is to lower risk to the point that it is acceptable to the organization.

Have questions? Need help?

Call us at 859-245-0582 or click here to reach out to us.

You might also be interested in our other article on HIPAA Compliance, “What are the HIPAA standards for IT”. Click here to read it now.

 

Next Century Technologies has teamed up with HIPAA Secure Now to bring comprehensive HIPAA compliance solutions and advice, at a reasonable price, to establishments that fall under HIPAA. We thank our partners at HIPAA Secure Now for providing the content for this article. 

 

What triggers a HIPAA audit?

What is HIPAA?

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, better know as HIPAA, was passed by Congress in 1996 and called for the protection and confidential handling of protected health information (PHI). HIPAA still exists today, aiming to protect patients and their information, but it’s important to think about how far we’ve come in the ways we handle patient data since its enactment.

Compliance is Non-Negotiable

One thing that has not changed since 1996 – HIPAA compliance is here, and it is not optional.  In fact, it’s arguably more important than ever before to have your HIPAA compliance program in order. With the healthcare industry being favored by cybercriminals, human error accounting for most data breaches, the ease in filing a complaint against an organization, and more, your compliance program could come under review at any given time – and you must be ready.

What triggers an audit?

The Office for Civil Rights (OCR), is the department responsible for enforcing HIPAA. It seems there is a common misconception that audits by the OCR happen at random when the department decides to “pop in” on organizations to check on their compliance state. The reality is, the OCR is not staffed to audit organizations without just cause, meaning when an audit occurs, something triggered it.

Common audit triggers

  • Patient complaints – Patients could file complaints for any number of reasons. Maybe a patient was denied access to their records, or perhaps they saw a picture on social media with their medical chart in the background.
  • Employee complaints – Often times, disgruntled employees may file a complaint following termination of employment, but that’s not always the case. If an employee feels there has been wrongdoing, they could certainly file a complaint.
  • Employee mistakes – Employee mistakes or human error account for many audits. An employee falling for a phishing email, using weak passwords, and sending a patient the incorrect records are all examples of human errors.
  • Insider wrongdoing – Sometimes employees violate company policies maliciously, and other times they may just be curious. Employees could steal patient records for personal gain or could peek at a patient’s records because they’re curious about their visit.
  • Third-party mistakes – Mistakes caused by a Business Associate (BA) could also lead to an investigation of your organization. If your (BA) suffers a data breach, you may be audited as well.
  • Security incident – Common security incidents include lost or stolen devices, especially those devices that are unencrypted, as well as unpatched software that led to malware or ransomware exploits.

Many times, whatever triggered the audit, to begin with, is not the biggest problem or finding by the OCR. This is why having your HIPAA compliance program in order and continuously working towards your compliance is critical.

What will OCR look for in an audit?

What OCR may be looking for in an audit situation will vary, dependent on what triggered the audit in the first place. Below are some common items that your organization could expect to show an auditor in the event of an audit, all of which, are key components of a HIPAA compliance program.

  • Security Risk Assessment – An absolutely critical part of your compliance program. The Security Risk Assessment (also referred to as the SRA, or Security Risk Analysis) will look for gaps in your organization’s administrative, physical and technical safeguards that could pose a risk for protected health information (PHI). You must have documented proof of your SRA.
  • Remediation/Risk Management Plan – Once you’ve conducted your SRA, you’ll need to have a process in place to begin addressing your deficiencies, often referred to as a Risk Management Plan. This plan should cover how you plan to remediate all the security gaps discovered in your SRA.
  • Policies & Procedures – Not only does your organization need to have policies and procedures in place, but you also must ensure that employees understand those policies and have signed off on them. Employees can’t be expected to follow the rules if they are unaware of them, and the documented proof that they acknowledged the policies is vital in the event of a security incident.
  • Security Officer – Every organization needs to have an appointed Security Officer. This individual is responsible for ensuring policies and procedures are created, understood by all employees of the organization, and acknowledged by them with documented proof. The Security Officer should also ensure employees are trained on HIPAA routinely.
  • Routine HIPAA Training – Not only is HIPAA training a requirement, but it is also necessary to reduce the chances of an employee-error. HIPAA and cybersecurity awareness training should be conducted routinely so employees are kept updated on the latest threats, and to keep security best practices top of mind.
  • Business Associate Agreements – You must have a Business Associate Agreement (BAA) with any and all vendors that handle your patient data. A data breach caused by a Business Associate will also affect your organization, so make sure you are working with vendors who take HIPAA compliance seriously.

Proof of network vulnerability scans, penetration tests, and breach notification (in the event of a breach) are also common requests by the OCR.

The Bottom Line

It’s safe to say that in this digital age, HIPAA could use a refresh, but despite its flaws, your adherence to it is not up for discussion. An audit could be triggered by anyone, at any time. If you had a complaint filed against you tomorrow, would you be confident in your compliance state? If you can’t answer yes, it’s best to get to work – before it’s too late.

Have questions? Need help?

Call us at 859-245-0582 or click here to reach out to us.

You might also be interested in our other article on HIPAA Compliance, “What are the HIPAA standards for IT”. Click here to read it now.

 

Next Century Technologies has teamed up with HIPAA Secure Now to bring comprehensive HIPAA compliance solutions and advice, at a reasonable price, to establishments that fall under HIPAA. We thank our partners at HIPAA Secure Now for providing the content for this article. 

 

 

What are the HIPAA standards for IT?

A HIPAA covered entity is more than just a doctor’s office or hospital – its any business that comes in direct contact with a patient’s PII (personally identifiable information). This includes not only medical providers but law firms dealing with medical cases, health insurance companies and medical billing services. HIPAA is a mindset, a set of policies and procedures that are followed for doing business. That being said, there are some areas in IT that a covered entity should focus on.

IT areas of focus for HIPAA compliance:

  • Risk Assessment. Have one. It is required. Without one you can’t identify your vulnerabilities and you can’t address those vulnerabilities. This is your foundation for the HIPAA mindset.
  • Archiving logs of user transactions and event notifications. Who did what, when and where? These are the questions that have to be answered! Staff is a lot less likely to steal PII if they think they are being watched. You know people are paid to steal PII, right?
  • Secure e-mail implementation. Does your staff know how to send PII securely via e-mail? Use encryption if you need to send PII. Use a system that’s easy to implement.
  • Regular operating system and application updates for all computers. Computers should be updated weekly, and servers at least monthly. Its best to automate this process so its not forgotten. This automated process should provide notifications of what updates were successful and which were missed.
  • Regularly scheduled vulnerability scans. Do them at least once a quarter and following any major IT changes. The vulnerability scan compares your IT environment to several reputable databases of vulnerabilities to identify issues that need to be addressed. Vulnerability software needs regular updates, so should be subscription-based.
  • Policies & Procedures. Do you maintain a set of policies and procedures for handling and protecting PII?  Although IT is included, it covers all aspects of the office right down to locking doors to sensitive areas and minimizing the view visitors have of your paperwork and computer screens.
  • Quality firewall device with intrusion prevention system (IPS).  IPS is subscription-based protection that is updated as new IT threats emerge.
  • Good password policy. So critical! This includes not only how complex the passwords are, but how they are stored and end-user training on how to manage them.
  • Internet restrictions. Keep the office computers focused on the business, not on games, shopping sites or social media. All of those sites are ripe with poor security that can lead to a breach of your data or a malware infection. 
  • Mobile device management. PII should not be on unsecured mobile devices. If you must use mobile devices, via technology,  they can be secured.
  • Laptop encryption. Windows 10 Pro includes encryption. A stolen or lost laptop is considered a breach. Even if you don’t think you store PII on that laptop, it is used to access email and cloud apps where PII is kept. So encrypt it.
  • Endpoint Protection. This includes your paid antivirus/antimalware, 2-factor authentication for e-mail and electronic records. Also encryption for e-mails. 
  • Physical security. Keep the server room locked! Desktops should be locked down with password protection if left unattended. Can patients wander behind the counter and have easy access to patient information laying around? 

Where can I find help with HIPAA?

Next Century Technologies has a dedicated team of HIPAA experts to assist with everything mentioned in this list. We have a cost-effective approach to HIPAA just for the budgets of the small and medium-sized covered entities. 

Call us at 859-245-0582 or click here to reach out to us.

About the Author

Tracy Hardin is President and founder of Next Century Technologies in Lexington, KY. She has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Kentucky and has earned certifications from Novell, Cisco and CompTIA. Her specialties in the field of IT are network design and security, project management and improving productivity through technology. She loves helping people by sharing her knowledge of tech.

What are the benefits of managed services?

Do you have a reactive or proactive mindset? Do situations, events or the latest crisis dictate your next step? You might be a reactive thinker. Do you take situations in stride, have a plan B when something goes wrong and plan ahead to avoid a crisis? You are being proactive. Reactive thinkers scramble to react; proactive thinkers tend to be cool under stress because they have thought out the different scenarios. Proactive vs. reactive is the fundamental difference between managed services and break/fix.

What is managed services vs. break/fix?

In a nutshell, managed services embodies both IT services and hardware that work together to secure, protect, maintain and support a company’s IT infrastructure. In a nutshell, it is a proactive mindset for managing IT. An ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure in a world of ransomware and phishing attacks! Managed services are offered by IT solution providers that have built a stack of IT products that work together and a well-seasoned staff to utilize them.

Each managed service provider will have slightly different offerings, but the goal of proactively securing, protecting, maintaining and supporting remains the same. Most often, companies purchase a managed service plan so they don’t have to find, train and maintain their own IT staff.  However, some companies will leverage the skill-set and products of a managed service provider to complement their own internal IT staff.

Break/fix, on the other hand, is waiting for something to break before calling for help. Services, support and hardware are purchased on an as-needed basis from an IT solution provider. It’s a reactive approach to IT where the management of IT is the responsibility of the business owner, not an IT solution provider.

What are the benefits of managed services over break/fix from the business owner’s perspective?

First and foremost, managed service providers make their money when their clients’ networks are functioning well, and lose when they are not – great motivation to maximize uptime! This leads to better productivity for their clients because the focus is on keeping the computers going, which keeps the client’s staff working.

There are many other great benefits of managed services:

  • Managed services offers 24/7/365 monitoring. This is the cornerstone of managed services, and the only way to be truly proactive.
  • A managed service provider has a team of IT experts. IT is complicated. To manage it properly a business needs a team of individuals with different areas of expertise that work together to resolve any issues as they arise. The expertise can also help recommend, plan and implement IT infrastructure improvements.
  • You don’t have to spend time and money searching for an IT person! Too often companies go through a long, drawn-out process of placing an ad, reviewing resumes, interviewing and then end up hiring someone that is not qualified. Lack of qualifications can lead poor computer support or even a serious security breach. Not only that, but an in-house IT person will need ongoing training to keep up with the ever-changing world of IT and security.
  • Managed services is a proactive approach to managing IT. Break/fix, on the other hand, is reactive. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure!
  • A managed service provider utilizes a multi-layered approach to secure all aspects of their clients’ IT infrastructure. Antivirus alone is no longer enough! A full 80% of data breaches target small companies. Many layers of security are now necessary including training the staff on what not to open or click.
  • Managed services provides a more predictable IT budget. With its fixed-price structure, it helps balance that budget for both hardware and support. Managed service plans are priced by the device or the user, and includes support hours as well. Some plans even include the hardware such as desktops, firewalls, and switches. The associated contract guarantees predictable pricing for the term.
  • Many cyber insurance policies offer discounts for companies that have a managed services plan. Some discounts are steep enough to cover the cost of their managed service plan! Cyber insurance policies can pay off big in a ransomware situation.
  • A managed service plan comes with a service level agreement (SLA). In writing, an SLA provides guaranteed response time. An IT solution provider puts their managed service clients first.
  • A managed service plan frees up YOUR time! Under a managed service contract, clients allow their staff to open their own support tickets because they know it will be covered by the contract. Copies of ticket and/or reports keep managers abreast of what is happening. This frees up management’s time and allows them to focus on their core business instead of dealing with IT issues.

Our take on it

From the aspect of an IT solution provider, our favorite part of managed services is the freedom to select the best products for our clients. They trust us to make the best decisions for their IT. We are constantly researching and learning about technology and the threats that go with it so we can provide the best service possible and protect our clients’ investments.  Plus, being proactive means we are cool under stress!

Next Century Technologies is a trusted provider of managed services and IT consulting since 2001.

Call us at 859-245-0582 or click here to reach out to us.

About the Author

Tracy Hardin is President and founder of Next Century Technologies in Lexington, KY. She has a bachelor’s degree in computer science from the University of Kentucky and has earned certifications from Novell, Cisco and CompTIA. Her specialties in the field of IT are network design and security, project management and improving productivity through technology. She loves helping people by sharing her knowledge of tech.