Study: Most data breaches are caused by insiders

A survey by Veriphyr, a provider of identity and access intelligence solutions, found that insiders were responsible for over 60% of data breaches of protected health information (PHI). Specifically, 35% of the PHI breaches were due to insiders' snooping into medical records of fellow employees, and 27% due to improper access to records of their friends and relatives.

Over 70% of surveyed entities, which included hospitals and other heathcare providers, reported suffering one or more breaches within the last 12 months. Veriphyr CEO estimated that data breaches cost healthcare organizations almost $6 billion annually, but found that an overwhelming majority of privacy and compliance officers within the surveyed group (79%) felt that they lacked "adequate controls to detect PHI breaches in a timely fashion."

It is worth noting that 45% of breaches in the survey were caused by loss or theft of medical records and/or equipment holding such records. We have recently seen HHS impose a $1 million fine on Massachusetts General Hospital in a case where, it seems, records were lost by an employee due to a simple mistake and with no malice. UCLA Health System also paid a high price for its employees' snooping into medical records of celebrities.

While it is difficult to anticipate or avoid all possible human error, certain best practices - including Board and executive-level support for privacy initiatives, staff training and updated privacy and security policies and procedures, will go a long way to help your organization protect itself from a disastrous and costly data breach.

"Insiders responsible for majority of privacy breaches, survey finds," Healthcare IT News (August 30, 2011).


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