Data Security in the “New Normal” of Teleworking

By Margaret Young Levi and Kathie McDonald-McClure

The 2020 worldwide pandemic will go down in the history books much like the 1918 Spanish Flu.  One big difference between then and now: the technology that has enabled millions of us to remain moderately productive “at work” from the comfort of our homes.  Welcome to the “new normal” of telework.  Being comfy at work in yoga pants – saving time by not having to dress for “the office” as we once knew it.  Shorter commutes, with coffee refills only steps away in the “breakroom” – our kitchens.  Staying connected to our co-workers, clients and work associates in Brady Bunch style, creating a little mystique with virtual backgrounds on Zoom, Microsoft Teams or WebEx video conferencing platforms.

As relaxed as we may be in the new normal of teleworking, it’s not a time to relax when it comes to being vigilant in securing the confidences of our employers, employees, clients or customers.  Teleworking brings new technology challenges:  learning new software and conferencing programs, managing confidential paper documents, and protecting electronic data.  And since our homes are now an extension of our offices, these challenges may create additional exposure for employers. As office workers and healthcare providers switched to telework and telehealth under state stay-at-home orders, malicious cyber actors were ramping up to take advantage of the security gaps that would inevitably accompany such a sudden transition. Wyatt data privacy counsel offer practical tips to protect employer and client data, as well as personal information, in the new normal of telework.

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Audio-Video Conferencing Risks and Tips for Healthcare Providers

by Margaret Young Levi and Kathie McDonald-McClure

Federal and state governments have relaxed restrictions on telehealth to encourage and empower medical providers to serve patients at home during the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) national public health emergency (PHE). Both medical providers and patients have embraced this new way of connecting due to its convenience and, as a result, the expanded use of telehealth is likely here to stay.  The use of audio and video conferencing for patient care, while convenient, risks an unauthorized disclosure of sensitive information if it is used without due regard for whether the connections are secure. 

Following expansion by the U.S. Department of Human Health Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) of federal telehealth services and relaxation of certain requirements during the COVID-19 PHE, Kentucky Medicaid followed suit.  See our previous post about Kentucky Medicaid’s expansion of coverage for telehealth. 

OCR Relaxes HIPAA enforcement for telehealth during COVID-19 PHE.  OCR, the agency responsible for enforcement of HIPAA, issued guidance on its enforcement discretion with regard to certain telehealth practices under HIPAA.  This guidance makes it clear that OCR will not enforce penalties for the use of technology that is not HIPAA compliant, when used in the good faith provision of telehealth services.

Under this Notice, covered health care providers may use popular applications that allow for video chats, including Apple FaceTime, Facebook Messenger video chat, Google Hangouts video, or Skype, to provide telehealth without risk that OCR might seek to impose a penalty for noncompliance with the HIPAA Rules related to the good faith provision of telehealth during the COVID-19 PHE. 

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FBI Issues New COVID-19 Cyber Alert for Healthcare Providers on April 21, 2020

On April 21, 2020, the American Hospital Association alerted its members that the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) had issued an FBI Flash to update healthcare providers on additional cyber activity* that continues to exploit fears related to the COVID-19 pandemic. The FBI stated that it had been notified of targeted email phishing attempts against US-based medical providers. The phishing attempts use subject lines and content related to COVID-19 and distribute malicious attachments. Individuals or companies receiving email with unsolicited attachments that may be a phishing attempt should NOT open the email or email attachment if the individual or the company does not have the capability to examine the attachment in a controlled and safe manner.

FBI Alert provides technical details. The FBI Flash provides technical details about the phishing campaign to assist individuals and company IT personnel in identifying the malicious emails. The technical details include a list of email senders, email subject lines, attachment file names and hashes related to the phishing attempts.

The FBI Requests Assistance to Respond to the Threat. To assist in the FBI’s response to the COVID-19 phishing campaign, the targeted individual, or his or her company, is being asked to:

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Healthcare Privacy Practices Notice Must Include Nondiscrimination Notice

By Margaret Young Levi and Kathie McDonald-McClureprivacy policy

Among the many mandates of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) (a/k/a “Obama Care”) still in force today is Section 1557. Section 1557 prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, sex, age, or disability in certain health programs or activities. The U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (HHS) Office for Civil Rights (OCR) is the agency vested with responsibility for implementing and enforcing Section 1557. On May 16, 2016, OCR issued a Final Rule that requires entities covered by the ACA to notify beneficiaries, enrollees, applicants, or members of the public of Section 1557’s nondiscrimination prohibitions. This notice must be included in the entity’s “significant” publications and communications.

You might ask, “Why am I reading about this on a legal blog about privacy and security?”  This is because OCR determined that the Notice of Privacy Practices, which healthcare providers and health plans issue to patients and plan members, is a “significant” publication or communication. As a result, health care providers and health plans that are subject to both Section 1557 and the Privacy Rule under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) must add the Section 1557 nondiscrimination notices and taglines to their Notice of Privacy Practices. Health plans should add such notices and taglines to their Summary of Benefits and Coverage as well.

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Ransomware Attack on Allscripts’ Cloud-Based EHR and E-Prescribing Platforms: What Providers Need to Know

pexels-photo-263370.jpegBy Kathie McDonald-McClure

What Happened. According to several healthcare news sources, on Thursday, January 18, 2018, Allscripts experienced a ransomware attack on the computer servers that host the Allscripts cloud-based EHR and the Allscripts cloud-based Electronic Prescriptions for Controlled Substances (“EPCS”) platform. Allscripts did not pay the ransom because it had recent data backups that were unaffected by the attack.¹

Initial Impact on Allscripts’ Clients. The EPCS reportedly was restored on Saturday, January 20, 2018. The EHR system reportedly continued to be adversely affected through at least Monday, January 22, 2018, with some providers still reporting log-in issues through Wednesday, January 24, 2018. Allscripts held a conference call with providers in which it advised providers that they may continue to experience usage interruptions with the cloud-based products until Allscripts completed a roll-out of security updates. During down times, Allscripts urged providers to use the Allscripts mobile solution (only available on the iPhone) to view medical histories and schedules but acknowledged that providers would be unable to Continue reading