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Extortion can mean double jeopardy for personal health information providers

I've been thinking a bit more about the personal health information extortion attempt that's been in the news recently, and which Ken Swinney mentioned in his  Keep the snakes at bay  post yesterday. If you haven't been following the story, the gist is that a state agency responsible for identifying prescription medication abuse was hacked and compromised. Their site was then replaced with a ransom note demanding 10 million dollars for access to the database.

Under current guidelines, would this have required that patients be notified of a potential breach? It's hard to say without knowing all the specifics, and what 'concerned entities' were involved. Under the new HIPAA breach notification rules  that go into effect this September, though, notifications would most definitely be required.If nothing else, that's a lot of postage.

I can only imagine that we'll see more and more incidents of this nature in the future. In fact, this is not the first extortion attempt involving personal health information to become public in the past year. One of the nation's largest processors of pharmacy prescriptions (think benefit claims) also suffered an extortion attempt roughly six months ago. Smartly, they didn't pay. Even so, public extortion of this kind is double jeopardy for those who maintain personal health information (or financial, for that matter). At that point, providers are already in violation of any applicable legislation, and will be subject to those fines and penalties no matter what approach is taken in recovering the compromised data.





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