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Report: Healthcare Sector Hit Hard in 2016 by Data Breaches

January 24, 2017
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Across all industries, the number of U.S. data breaches tracked in 2016 hit an all-time record high of 1,093, and in healthcare, troubling data security trends continue to plague the sector, according to new research from the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) and CyberScout.

The number of breaches in 2016 represents a substantial hike of 40 percent over the near record high of 780 reported in 2015. Since 2005, the ITRC has been identifying data breaches in five industry sectors. In 2016, the business sector again topped the list in the number of data breach incidents, with 494 reported, representing 45.2 percent of the overall number of breaches. This was followed by the healthcare/medical industry (377 incidents), representing 34.5 percent of the overall total. The education sector (98) followed at 9.0 percent, the government/military (72) at 6.6 percent and the banking/credit /financial sector (52) at 4.8 percent.

The latest findings make up the ITRC Data Breach Report 2016. The report included some noteworthy healthcare statistics:

  • Healthcare exposed the most SSNs compared to all other industries (business, education, financial, and government)
  • The most records exposed by employee error or negligence were in the healthcare sector
  • The healthcare industry was hit hardest by hacking, skimming and phishing attacks

What’s more, regarding the reporting of the known number of records exposed, half (50.7 percent) of the overall number of breach notifications did not include this information. However, due to the mandatory reporting requirement for healthcare industry breaches affecting 500 or more individuals, 84 percent of the healthcare breaches publicly stated the number of records exposed.

It should also be noted that several large scale breaches in 2016— which only involved usernames, passwords, or emails— while included on the list, did not specify the vast number of records exposed because this type of information does not typically trigger most data breach notification laws.

To this end, a recent year-in-review Breach Barometer report from Protenus revealed that 2016 averaged at least one health data breach per day, affecting more than 27 million patient records. If 2016 trends continue, according to those report authors, 2017 can expect to see a continued average of at least one health data breach disclosed per day.

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