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HomeTrendingHealthcare for Ransom: A Look into the HIPAA Guidelines for Ransomware Incidents

Healthcare for Ransom: A Look into the HIPAA Guidelines for Ransomware Incidents

Over the years, electronic theft through hacking in healthcare has continued to skyrocket. Most headlines describe healthcare hacking incidents in various practices. This affects both providers and business associates.

More often than not, ransomware incidents create a special challenge. As far as HIPAA is concerned, a ransomware attack is presumed to be a breach under the Breach Notification Rule. This usually triggers the requirement for a breach investigation and data loss prevention

But what if you are looking to know more about the HIPAA guidelines for ransomware incidents? Then this article is for you. In this article, we will comprehensively discuss the concept of ransomware, HIPAA, and the guidelines for ransomware incidents.

Without further prepping, let’s get started

What Is Ransomware?

Ransomware is malicious software that locks files and demands payment, or a “ransom” to access them. Although it isn’t only intended to extort payment for releasing important files, it is also used to deliberate a business.

As part of a ransomware attack, files can be marked for permanent deletion or published on the web. Ransomware is usually deployed on devices and systems through phishing messages, spam, websites, and e-mail attachments.

Also, it can be directly installed by an attacker who has hacked into a system. In most cases, when a user clicks on the malicious link or opens the attachment, it infects the user’s data.

Organizations that experience ransomware attacks usually shut down for several days or weeks, as they try to recover and investigate the incident. 

The costs can be lurching, and for patients, the loss of data can be life-threatening in severe cases. As mentioned above, phishing is by far the most common way that hackers break into systems. And without training and practice, even sophisticated digital users may be fooled!

Having understood what ransomware is, let’s briefly examine the concept of HIPAA.

What is HIPAA?

HIPAA – Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act were passed by Congress in 1996. It mainly helps to provide transfer opportunities and insurance coverage for American workers and their families when they lose their jobs.

Also, HIPAA reduces healthcare fraud and abuse. It mandates industry-wide standards for health care information on electric billing and many more. Additionally, it requires the protection and confidential handling of protected health information.

This said, let’s delve into the main part of this article which is the HIPAA guidelines for ransomware incidents in the next section.

HIPAA Guidelines for Ransomware Incidents 

The HIPAA guidelines and Security Rules both require an annual Risk Management Plan which is to be updated on an ongoing basis. Healthcare providers ought to consider evaluating their HIPAA compliance. They should start taking additional steps that go above and beyond the minimum HIPAA requirements. 

Furthermore, in order to ensure HIPAA compliance, healthcare organizations should consider undertaking thorough risk assessments. This is done to identify potential threats to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of all ePHI created by the healthcare entity.

  1. Have a Reliable Malware-Detection System

Having good anti-malware detection is the first line of defense. Simultaneously, ensuring that all software patches are installed when they are available, and conducting daily data backups all fall under the category of technical defenses.

Just as important as the technical defenses, is security awareness training, hackers are skillful in their acts. They operate remotely, through social engineering. This simply means finding ways to make computer users comfortable so they’ll let down their guard and click or open something, allowing access.

     2.Employees Must Be Aware of Phising Tactics

Teaching staff how to recognize phishing and to be cautious, to NOT click, pays off. However,  should ransomware incidents happen despite technical defenses and training, employees must notify the IT security staff. In a small organization, the business owner must be notified immediately. 

The organization must start its contingency plan to contain the harm and continue operations as much as possible.

     3.Backing Up Organizational Data Is Essential

Healthcare providers should also think about how they back up their data. They should find out whether such backups should be saved within the network or outside of it. In the event of a ransomware attack, the healthcare institution should consider how such backups might be compromised.

It should be noted that any backups should be encrypted (to the greatest extent possible) and otherwise meet other HIPAA requirements. This is done so that such backups are not susceptible to a prospective breach scenario on their own.

Furthermore, the healthcare entity should confirm on a regular basis that the backups can be restored. This is in case their systems are compromised or taken hostage.


The importance of the HIPAA guidelines cannot be overstated for the healthcare system. The healthcare industry is highly prone to ransomware attacks, as it stores a massive chunk of patients’ data. HIPAA provides comprehensive guidance for enterprises dealing with ransomware, from prevention techniques to response and recovery plans. 

Compliance with all of the standards established will aid in the smooth management of security incidents. Going a step beyond the requirements, on the other hand, is a better approach. Enterprises should employ a comprehensive set of solutions.

These solutions must include breach detection, data loss prevention, and auditing and demonstration of compliance. It should also include legacy system security, cloud security, device, endpoint, and data protection.

Frequently Asked Questions on HIPAA Guidelines for Ransomware Incidents 

  1. Who Is at the Risk of Ransomware?

As long as you own a computer connected to the internet, you’re at risk of ransomware. This includes government or law enforcement agencies, healthcare systems, and other critical infrastructure entities. 

    2.Who are the Malicious Ransomware Actors?

The majority of the malicious actors are cybercriminals trying to cause harm to critical infrastructure or trying to enrich themselves.

    3.What is the Most Common Way Users Get Attacked with Ransomware?

The most common way to get infected with ransomware is via phishing emails, containing malignant attachments. Also, it can spread through drive-by downloading. Drive-by downloading usually occurs when a user visits an infected website unknowingly and downloads and installs malware without the user’s knowledge.

    4.What are Other HIPAA Violations?

Some other HIPAA Violations include:

  • Improper disposal of PHI. 
  • Failure to conduct a risk analysis. 
  • Failure to implement safeguards to ensure the availability, confidentiality, and integrity of PHI.
  • Failure to manage risks to the integrity, confidentiality, and availability of PHI. 

    5.How Does HIPAA Provide Security?

The HIPAA Security Rule requires healthcare providers to protect patients’ electronically stored, protected health information.

This can be done by using appropriate administrative, physical, and technical safeguards to ensure the security, confidentiality, and integrity of this information.

    6.Why Is the Healthcare Industry Target of Ransomware Attacks?

Hospitals store a substantial amount of patient data. This confidential data is usually worth a lot of money to hackers who can sell it quickly.

This makes the industry a growing target. That is why these organizations must protect their patients’ records.

    7.What Devices Should be Encrypted for HIPAA?

The HIPAA regulation requires the encryption of patient information when stored on tapes, disks, USB drives, and other non-volatile storage.

    8.Does HIPAA Require Encryption?

Yes, it does. HIPAA requires the encryption of protected health information and patients’ electronic PHI when the data is at rest. This means that the data is stored on a tape, disk, USB drive, and many more.

IEMA IEMLabshttps://iemlabs.com
IEMLabs is an ISO 27001:2013 and ISO 9001:2015 certified company, we are also a proud member of EC Council, NASSCOM, Data Security Council of India (DSCI), Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC), U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and Confederation of Indian Industry (CII). The company was established in 2016 with a vision in mind to provide Cyber Security to the digital world and make them Hack Proof. The question is why are we suddenly talking about Cyber Security and all this stuff? With the development of technology, more and more companies are shifting their business to Digital World which is resulting in the increase in Cyber Crimes.


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