Image copyright Catherine Lane 2015

My New Year’s resolutions will likely be broken early and often in 2016. My consequences are mostly non-monetary: a few more pounds, a little less savings, and not winning the triathlon in my age group. Your consequences, as a HIPAA-covered entity or business associate, for not complying with the Privacy and Security Rules could be much greater, and could put you into serious debt to the HHS Office of Civil Rights (OCR). Therefore, we propose that you resolve now to become fully HIPAA compliant in 2016.

OCR delivered an early holiday gift, wrapped in the Director’s Sept. 23, 2015, report to the Office of Inspector General. In that report, she disclosed that OCR will launch Phase 2 of its HIPAA audit program in early 2016, focusing on noncompliance issues for both covered entities and business associates.

So, grab that cup of hot cocoa and peruse this review of 2014-2015 HIPAA enforcement actions, which should help identify noncompliance issues on which OCR will focus in 2016.  Continue Reading HIPAA compliance: another year older, but hopefully not deeper in debt

santaiStock_000017337503_LargeFor those who observe it, the Christmas season (secular version 2.0) is definitely here. As a child, I cherished the thought of a man with a red suit accessing our house through the chimney. For those of us concerned about computer system security, we worry about a person with a black hat accessing our data through phishing, hacking, and malware. I hate to mention, well, you know who, but someone out there loves the thought of taking your Whoville roast beast.

Enjoy the next few days with your family and friends, but remember, it’s also time to consider your data security for 2016. Knowing you, once you’ve opened all the presents, eaten dinner, and just settled down for a moment of quiet sanity, your thoughts will inevitably turn to the new year. So, here are six holiday-themed recommendations for your consideration. If you don’t recognize the quotes below, that means you didn’t spend your childhood binge-watching classic holiday programs. Not a worry – simply unwrap the answer key at the bottom. Continue Reading I’m making a list, securing it twice…

plumberiStock_000045982828_LargeWhile data breaches have become a common occurrence, the epic breach of the Office of Personal Management (“OPM”) records stands out for many reasons. The hackers obtained PII on at least 21.5 million people and accessed highly confidential background check and security clearance information, including personal details such as fingerprint data and financial history. But what is most shocking is that the federal government was aware of security flaws within OPM’s computer system for years before the breach, yet never addressed those vulnerabilities. Continue Reading Failing to fix is fixing to fail (or get hacked)

wagoniStock_000063135639_LargeDo you often feel that despite best efforts to circle the wagons your information security team is fighting a losing battle with broken down tools? Even though information security budgets have increased in the last couple of years—likely in response to the very visible increase in high-profile data breaches—discretionary budget dollars are scarce. I recently heard the poker term “dead money”  used to describe that large portion of every IT budget that has been committed long before it is received, much like the money we all must dedicate to mortgages, utilities, food, and transportation. Thus, for every $100 of total IT spend, we may be left with just $0.60 for new baubles and geegaws, as my grandmother used to say. Continue Reading Broke, bothered, and beleagured

flower-illustrationiStock_000018468303_LargeIt’s tempting to “gild the lily” when applying for cyber insurance. Insurers are still getting their arms around how to underwrite cyber risks, and so applications commonly feature a lengthy questionnaire about security controls and safeguards. Often folks in the insured’s Finance or Risk departments handle the application process, with minimal involvement by IT Security and Legal. The result can be questionnaire responses that are, well, “aspirational.”

The problem is that the insured’s representations in the application usually become part of the policy, with coverage conditioned on the representations being accurate when made, and also on an ongoing basis. If the questionnaire responses are later deemed to be material misrepresentations, or if what was represented changes materially, then coverage may be lost. With cyber insurance applications, gilding the lily can result in gelding of coverage. Continue Reading Gilding, gelding, & cyber insurance applications

wolf-eyesiStock_000012725226_MediumCompanies suffering a data breach have a lot to worry about. High on that list is Norman Siegel, a founding member of Stueve Siegel Hanson LLP. Siegel is a prominent data breach plaintiffs’ lawyer – he helped lead the team representing consumers in the consolidated Target data breach lawsuits, and currently serves as lead counsel representing consumers in the pending Home Depot data breach litigation. He also is co-chair of the Privacy and Data Breach Litigation Group of the American Association for Justice.

I recently asked Siegel for his thoughts on the current landscape of data breach consumer litigation. Here is what he shared. Continue Reading Words from the wolf at the door

physicians155824955Healthcare is trending toward value-based payments. Back in January, Sylvia Burwell of the of the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services announced Medicare’s move toward paying providers based on quality, rather than quantity, of care they give to patients. Secretary Burwell emphasized the importance of alternate payment models, including accountable care organizations (“ACOs”). Regardless of whether you are for or against value based payments, ACOs are will play a big role in the future of healthcare, and many providers will find themselves involved in an ACO. So, what are the privacy and security issues associated with being an ACO participant? Continue Reading Privacy & security issues for ACO participants