Independent Pharmacies are NOT Safe from Cyberattacks

Have you ever had your credit card stolen, lost your wallet, or misplaced your social security card? Whether it has happened to you or not, you can imagine the pit of despair that settles in your stomach knowing that one malicious actor is all it takes to create dreadful issues in your life by misusing your information. The compulsion to protect your own credit cards and social security number has likely been engrained into your brain and safeguarding the information is second nature. What may surprise you, is that a valid set of payment card details is only worth a little over $5 on the black market and a social security number is only valued at around $0.50, according to a Trustwave Global Security Report. What is even more surprising is the value of a health care record – one record goes for around $250. Some comprehensive health care records may even be valued as high as $2,000!

The data clearly shows there is a large financial incentive for malicious actors to target the healthcare sector. The 2022 Annual Report to Congress on Breaches of Unsecured Protected Health Information showed 68% of breaches reported to the Office for Civil Rights that affected 500 or more individuals were from health care providers, which supports the fact that all health care providers should be taking action to ensure the safety and security of their protected health information (PHI).

The 2022 Annual Report to Congress also indicated 74% of those breaches were reportedly due to hacking/IT incidents of electronic equipment or a network server. The compulsion to protect the pharmacy’s electronic PHI (ePHI) needs to be as important to pharmacy personnel as protecting their own credit card information and social security number. The first step in that process is educating staff on cybersecurity. Whether you are the owner or an employee at a high-volume, multi-store pharmacy or a low volume, single-store independent pharmacy, your data is enticing to malicious actors and no pharmacy is safe from cyberattacks.

The IBM Cost of a Data Breach Report 2023 found that a malicious insider accounted for about 6% of the data breaches but was the most costly type of data breach, resulting in an annual cost of around $4.9 million dollars. Phishing and stolen or compromised credentials had an associated annual cost of $4.76 million and $4.62 million, respectively, but were more prevalent accounting for over 30% of the breach attack vectors. Additionally, only one in three organizations identified a breach using their organization’s own security team or tools—meaning, two out of three organizations had their breaches reported to them by law enforcement or the entity that unlawfully accessed their records (like when a ransom request was received to release their data). It also took an average of over 200 days from the date of the breach to identify that the breach occurred and another 73 days to contain the breach. Most pharmacies will take a full year to recover from a large data breach.

Rather than getting wrapped up in the financial and time-consuming repercussions of a large breach, be protective. Cybersecurity training is essential to protecting your business, your reputation, and your ePHI. Having a tailored policy and procedure for protecting ePHI is only as good as the staff that adhere to those policies and procedures. A single careless or negligent employee can be the weak link broken by bad actors and may be the end of the pharmacy’s good reputation…and hard-earned money.

PAAS Tips:

  • Watch the PAAS National® webinar, Cybersecurity Considerations for Community Pharmacies located on the Member Portal
  • Know the top threats facing healthcare cybersecurity:
    • Network connected medical device security
    • Insider accidental, or malicious data loss
    • Loss or theft of equipment and data
    • Ransomware
    • Social engineering
  • Understand the components, and importance of a HIPAA Security Risk Analysis
    • Perform and accurate and thorough assessment of the potential risk and vulnerabilities to the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the pharmacy’s ePHI
    • Identify and implement reasonable and appropriate physical, technical, and administrative safeguards as required by the HIPAA Security Rule
  • Know the terms
    • Vulnerability – a flaw or weakness in system security procedures, design, implementation or internal controls
    • Threat – the potential for a person or thing to exercise a specific vulnerability (natural, human, and environmental)
    • Risk – a function of the probability that a threat will attack a vulnerability and the resulting impact to the organization
  • PAAS’ FWA/HIPAA Compliance Program members can update their HIPAA Risk Analysis and complete Cybersecurity training on the PAAS Portal
Sara Hathaway, PharmD