HHS Opens Cybersecurity and Communications Office

It’s no secret that the healthcare industry is under the gun to protect itself from cybersecurity threats, which have threatened the healthcare records of millions of people in the last several years. In response to this ongoing problem, the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) is following the lead of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in opening the Health Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center.

The DHS National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC) was created to provide a secure and resilient cyber and communications infrastructure to support homeland security, and to prevent and mitigate cyberattacks that threaten the federal government and American citizens.

“HHS is building a health care information collaboration and analysis center, just like the NCCIC, only focused on healthcare,” said Chris Wlaschin, chief information security officer for HHS, during an April 20 panel discussion at the ACT-IAC Mobile Health Forum in Washington, according to a report by Federal News Radio. “We’ve provided grants to the National Health Information Sharing and Analysis Center to encourage a broad participation… that not just tries to reduce the noise—there’s so much noise out there about cyber threats to security and privacy—but to analyze those and deliver best practices and the two or three things that a small provider, a small office, a doc in a box can do to protect his patient’s privacy and information security around those systems.”

Panelists at the forum noted that the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) is considering taking similar cybersecurity steps.

Action from the federal government on cybersecurity couldn’t come at a more critical time for healthcare. According to Symantec’s newly released “2017 Internet Security Threat Report,” the healthcare industry has been slower than other regulated industries in implementing security measures. In 2016, according to the report, the volume of healthcare security incidents ranked second among all service sector breaches.

The total number of breached healthcare records dropped from 113 million records in 2015, to 16.7 million in 2016.

“Even though there seems to be a downward trend in the number of breached records, this is mainly driven by a few events and statistical outliers,” Symantec authors wrote. “The overall number of breach events as well as the median number for records breached in a given year has trended up.”

Click here to download a copy of the report.

Mary Butler is the associate editor at The Journal of AHIMA.

1 Comment

  1. Hello Ms. Butler. I am currently looking for employment. My background is IT and I have a degree in healthcare administration. I would be very interested in finding employment with Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in opening the Health Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center or CMS. Can you guide me in the right direction? Thank you in advance.

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