Cybersecurity in the Age of Remote Work

a person using a laptop computer on a wooden table

Facing the challenges of remote work requires a proactive approach to cybersecurity measures to ensure the protection of sensitive data and networks. Remote workers accessing corporate networks introduce security challenges and potential risks that demand stringent security protocols.

The increased use of endpoint devices and networking connections amplifies the complexity in securing IT systems, posing a strain on already stretched-thin security teams. With limited oversight of data use, there’s a heightened risk of data breaches, leaks, and unauthorized access to sensitive information.

Implementing tools to prevent the downloading of sensitive data and monitoring remote employees’ activities are crucial steps in mitigating these potential threats. By addressing these security challenges head-on and establishing robust security protocols, organizations can better safeguard their networks and data from the evolving cybersecurity landscape presented by remote work environments.

Cybersecurity Threats

Cybersecurity threats pose significant risks to remote work environments, requiring vigilant measures to protect against potential breaches and attacks. Here are three crucial points to consider:

  1. Increased Vulnerability of Remote Employees: With remote work, employees may be more susceptible to phishing attacks and social engineering tactics, potentially leading to security breaches. It’s essential to educate remote workers on recognizing and avoiding such threats to safeguard corporate data.
  2. Heightened Risk of Security Breaches: The dispersed nature of remote work setups can create additional cybersecurity risks, increasing the likelihood of a security breach. Implementing robust security policies and regularly updating them can help mitigate these risks and enhance overall cybersecurity posture.
  3. Importance of Monitoring and Enforcing Security Policies: Ensuring that security policies aren’t only in place but also actively monitored and enforced is crucial in maintaining a secure remote work environment. Regular audits and compliance checks can help identify and address any gaps in security measures, reducing the potential for security incidents.

Technology Vulnerabilities

Remote work environments create increased vulnerability for employees, addressing technology vulnerabilities is critical to ensuring the security of IT systems.

Remote access poses risks of unauthorized access to corporate networks, highlighting the importance of secure remote access protocols and VPNs. Vulnerable technologies lacking proper security measures are at risk of exploitation by cyber threats, necessitating robust cybersecurity defenses.

Security teams must be vigilant in safeguarding against potential security incidents. Implementing secure authentication methods and monitoring remote connections effectively is best practice. Cyber threats constantly evolve, making it crucial for organizations to stay proactive in mitigating technology vulnerabilities.

Data Breach Risks

Implement basic security controls to mitigate the heightened risk of data breaches in remote work environments. Here are three essential measures to protect your remote team from potential security risks:

  1. Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): Secure access to corporate systems by requiring multiple authentication factors, adding an extra layer of protection against unauthorized access.
  2. Establish Secure Access Protocols: Ensure all remote team members use secure access methods such as VPNs or secure channels to connect to company resources, safeguarding sensitive data from security threats.
  3. Regularly Educate Your Team: Provide ongoing training on data security best practices to remote workers, empowering them to recognize and respond to potential security risks effectively.

Remote Access Risks

Secure your company’s network by addressing the remote access risks posed by unauthorized entry points and insecure connections. When employees use personal devices to connect to private networks or public Wi-Fi networks, they inadvertently expose your company to cybersecurity threats.

Without proper security procedures in place, these connections become potential vulnerabilities for cyber attackers to exploit. It’s crucial to implement secure VPNs and authentication methods to mitigate the risk of unauthorized access to corporate networks.

Monitoring remote access and enforcing strict security protocols are essential to safeguarding your network from potential intrusions. By prioritizing network security. Educating employees on the risks associated with remote access, you can proactively protect your company’s data and systems from cyber threats.

Network Security Concerns

After addressing the remote access risks posed by unauthorized entry points and insecure connections, the focus shifts to the network security concerns that arise from the vulnerabilities of unsecured and shared networks in remote work environments.

  1. Expanded Attack Surface: With the increase in remote work, unsecured networks expand the potential attack surface for cyber threats, making it crucial to implement robust access controls.
  2. Detection of Suspicious Activities: Monitoring for suspicious activities on unsecured networks becomes challenging, emphasizing the need for vigilant network monitoring tools and practices.
  3. Mitigating Potential Threats: Proactive measures must be taken to mitigate potential threats that may exploit vulnerabilities in shared networks, requiring a comprehensive approach to network security and access controls.

Collaboration Platform Risks

Utilizing online collaboration platforms poses inherent risks in compromising sensitive information and facilitating cybercriminal activities.

To mitigate these risks, ensure that robust security measures are in place on all collaboration platforms. Regularly update security patches and antivirus software to protect against potential vulnerabilities. Be cautious of using outdated software that may be more susceptible to cyber threats.

Collaborate closely with cybersecurity teams to stay informed about the latest security protocols and best practices. Monitor the platforms for any suspicious activities that could indicate a breach in security.

Cybersecurity Best Practices

To enhance your organization’s cybersecurity posture, prioritize implementing basic security controls and strengthening your corporate data security and protection program. Here are three essential cybersecurity best practices to safeguard your sensitive company data effectively:

  1. Establish Robust Cybersecurity Measures: Implementing robust cybersecurity measures provides an extra layer of defense against potential cyber threats. Regularly updating your security protocols and systems ensures that your organization maintains a high level of security at all times.
  2. Ensure Regular Updates: Keeping your security systems in check with regular updates is crucial for maintaining a strong cybersecurity posture. These updates help patch vulnerabilities and protect your systems from evolving cyber threats.
  3. Enhance the Level of Security: Continuously strive to enhance the level of security within your organization by investing in advanced security technologies and practices. This proactive approach can help prevent cyber attacks and safeguard your company’s valuable assets effectively.

Frequently Asked Questions

1.How Can Companies Ensure the Security of Their Employees’ Personal Devices Used for Remote Work?

Ensure security by educating employees on device security measures. Encourage password protection, limited access to work devices, and regular backups on centralized storage. Emphasize the importance of privacy features like webcam covers and secure storage practices.

2.What Are the Potential Risks Associated With Employees Using Public Wi-Fi Networks for Remote Work?

When using public Wi-Fi for remote work, be cautious. Risks include unauthorized access, lack of secure protocols, and network intrusions. Securely connect with VPNs and strong authentication. Protect your data and systems.

3.How Can Organizations Effectively Monitor and Detect Insider Threats in a Remote Work Environment?

To monitor and detect threats in a remote work environment, you should implement user behavior analytics tools, monitor employee’s, and to report any suspicious activities.

4.What Measures Can Be Taken to Secure Sensitive Data Shared Through Online Collaboration Platforms?

To secure sensitive data shared through online collaboration platforms, use secure channels, implement encryption, and enable multi-factor authentication. Educate users on safe practices, monitor platform activity, and regularly update security measures to protect corporate information effectively.

Secure your remote workers with WheelHouse IT

With the upsurge in cyber security threats looming at every corner. It is important to secure your remote staff with the proper parameters for maximum security.

At WheelHouse IT we will make sure that your remote staff are properly set up for their task. Making sure that they won’t be worrying about cyber threats tampering with their work performance or stealing their sensitive data.

With our teams centered around security, our twenty-four-hour maintenance, and training on security awareness, WheelHouse IT will make sure you’re safe and secure, contact us to find out more.

 

 

National Hurricane Center says no to adding Category 6 to Scale

Category 6

In recent discussions surrounding the intensification of tropical storms due to climate change, rumors swirled about a potential new addition to the hurricane scale: a Category 6. We even reported these rumors just two days ago. A study suggesting that the strongest storms are becoming even more powerful sparked this speculation, leading to debates on whether the current Saffir-Simpson scale, which categorizes hurricanes from 1 to 5, accurately represents these changes.

The National Hurricane Center, however, has clarified that there are no plans to introduce a Category 6 to the hurricane scale. This decision stems from the understanding that the scale’s current structure, ending at Category 5, sufficiently conveys the severe impact of the most powerful storms, with Category 5 hurricanes already described as causing “catastrophic” wind damage.

What Does This Mean

Despite the absence of changes to the hurricane classification system, the conversation brings to light the undeniable fact that climate change is contributing to stronger hurricanes. Researchers have noted that since 2013, five Pacific storms would have qualified for the hypothetical Category 6 classification, with winds exceeding 192 miles per hour. These findings emphasize the growing strength of hurricanes, highlighting the importance of preparing for these more intense storms.

For businesses, especially, the start of the hurricane season should be a reminder of the critical need for robust preparedness plans. At WheelHouse IT, we understand the importance of business continuity and the devastating impact that severe weather can have on operations. As a Managed Service Provider (MSP) dedicated to supporting businesses, we emphasize the necessity of having a comprehensive plan and redundancies in place to ensure that your business can weather any storm.

One effective strategy for enhancing business resilience is the adoption of cloud services. Cloud computing not only provides flexibility and scalability but also securely backs up your critical data and applications off-site. This can be invaluable in the event of a disaster, providing businesses with the ability to maintain operations remotely, even when physical locations are affected.

In conclusion, while the hurricane scale may not be changing, the reality of stronger storms means that readiness should never be underestimated. For businesses, this means taking proactive steps to safeguard operations, data, and, ultimately, their future. WheelHouse IT is here to support you in these efforts, offering solutions and expertise to ensure that your business remains strong, no matter the weather.

What Are The Three Rules of HIPAA?

the word rules spelled with scrabble tiles

The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) lays out three rules for protecting patient health information, namely:

  • The Privacy Rule 
  • The Security Rule
  • The Breach Notification Rule

A national standard is established when these three rules are followed, and health information that could be used to identify a person is addressed by these standards and privacy procedures.

Failure to adhere to the three HIPAA rules, compliance obligations, and security policy–or any security breach of electronic information systems through unauthorized access to electronic health records, confidential health, and medical history, or electronically protected health information–can result in civil money penalties (and even criminal penalties), a loss of reputation for healthcare professionals due to intentional violations, and even the loss of employment for an employee.

Businesses can face fines of up to $1.5 million for failing to comply with the law and addressable implementation specifications. As a result, if you are one of the covered entities under HIPAA, you must follow the three HIPAA rules and security management processes, taking appropriate corrective action when necessary.

Why are the three rules necessary?

For Private Healthcare Information (PHI): there wasn’t much of a consensus on what the best practices for PHI should be. But things began to change after the introduction of HIPAA.

In the beginning, there were privacy and security rules. Protected health information (PHI) was the focus of HIPAA’s new standards, which applied to the entire healthcare industry.

In addition to this, HIPAA’s primary goal was to improve the patient experience. Covered entities were given a variety of policies and procedures to ensure that their clients’ information was protected without a lot of hassle. Reduced paperwork, in addition to improving workflow, is a benefit to the covered entity.

To meet HIPAA’s requirements, code sets must be used in conjunction with patient identifiers. Health insurance portability is aided as a result of this ease of information transfer. With the Portability and Accountability Act in mind, healthcare providers are attempting to make the patient’s experience more pleasant.

HIPA’s rules also serve some much more minor purposes. Life insurance loans may be exempt from tax deductions, depending on the circumstances. It also improves the efficiency of healthcare services and makes it easier for patients to interact with them.

Who needs to have HIPAA compliance?

Private hospitals, health insurance companies, medical discount providers, and other business associates are all included in the scope of HIPAA’s application.

This type of business is known as  “covered entities,” and must abide by the HIPAA regulations and security standards. Exceptions to the HIPAA rules for covered entities are extremely rare.

A company or organization that provides third-party health and human services to a covered entity must adhere to the HIPAA regulations. As “business associates,” these companies are subject to the same regulations as the covered entities, even though they do not provide direct services.

The business associate agreement must be signed by both business associates and covered entities. Before undergoing any procedures, the confidentiality and integrity of PHI must be preserved, and the business associate agreement does that.

The three main rules of HIPAA

As mentioned earlier in this article, HIPAA legislation is made up of a few rules that outline what you must do to comply with the law. We’ll now discuss them in detail below:

1. The HIPAA privacy rule

HIPAA defines the circumstances under which a person may disclose or use PHI. Everyone has a right to privacy, but as we all know, there are some situations in which the rule might be applied. Those who are covered by this policy must adhere to a set of rules.

The standards set by the privacy rule address subjects such as: 

  • Which organizations must follow the HIPAA standards
  • What is protected health information (PHI)
  • How organizations can share and use PHI
  • Permitted usage and disclosure of PHI
  • Patient’s rights over their health information

In 2003, the HIPAA Privacy Rule was first put into place. That includes healthcare providers, as well as clearinghouses, and other health insurance entities. Healthcare-related business partners joined the list in 2013.

For the most part, the rule on patient privacy restricts the extent to which medical records can be shared without explicit consent. Allows patients and their next of kin (representatives) to access their medical records under the HIPAA privacy rule These requests for access and disclosure must be responded to within 30 days of receipt by the Covered Entities. 

Healthcare entities covered by HIPAA include:

  • Health plans 
  • Health care clearinghouses 
  • Health care providers 

The privacy rule restricts the usage of health information, which could identify a person (PHI). Covered entities cannot use or disclose PHI unless:

  • It’s permitted under the privacy rule, or
  • The individual has authorized it in writing.

The privacy rule does not restrict de-identified health information. 

2. The HIPAA security rule

The HIPAA Security Rule sets out the minimum standards for protecting electronic health information (ePHI). To access that information in electronic format, even those who are technically capable of doing so would have to meet those standards.

The HIPAA security rule covers the following aspects:

  • The organizations that may need to follow the security rule and be deemed covered entities.
  • Safeguards, policies, and procedures that can be put in place to meet HIPAA compliance
  • Health care information that is under the protection of the security rule

To put it simply, anyone who is part of the BA or CE and can access, alter, create or transfer recorded ePHI will be required to follow these standards. These technical safeguards will involve NIST-standard encryption in case the information goes outside the firewall of the company. 

In addition to technical safeguards, the security rule will include several physical safeguards. If you’re in a public area, you won’t be able to see the screen because of a workstation layout. Only a specific area within the company’s network allows you to do this.

Administrative safeguards are also checked, and they are combined with the security rule and the privacy rule. A privacy officer and a security officer are required to conduct regular (an ongoing process) audits and risk analyses as part of these safeguards.

These evaluations are critical to the safety of the system. When considering possible threats to the PHI, they don’t care if it’s just a theory. Consequently, they plan to implement a risk management plan based on it to avoid any potential risks that could occur in the future. 

A covered entity must take the following steps to ensure the security of all ePHI they create, send, or receive:

  • Ensure the confidentiality integrity and availability of the PHI
  • Protect against improper uses and disclosures of data
  • Protect the ePHI against potential threats, safeguarding their medical records
  • Train employees so that they are aware of the compliance factors of the security rule
  • Adapt the policies and procedures to meet the updated security rule

Confidentiality, integrity, and availability rules in health care must be met by the covered entity.

3. The HIPAA breach notification rule

Occasionally, there may be a breach. The breach notification rule comes into play here. The Department of Health and Human Services must be informed as soon as possible if there has been a data breach. Regardless of the nature of the breach, this must be done within 60 days of its discovery, this is where a good risk management plan comes in handy.

If a breach during administrative actions involves a person‘s personal information, that person must be notified within 60 days of the discovery of the breach.

In the event of a large-scale breach that affects more than 500 patients in a specific jurisdiction, the media should be informed as well.

An immediate announcement of a privacy violation is required by the HIPAA rule for breach notification. The Office for Civil Rights may impose fines if you don’t comply.

Alternatively, the Covered Entity may decide not to send a breach notification if it can show that the critical element of the PHI has not been compromised. A violation of privacy and security rules would be warranted if they are found to have been compromised.

Reportable Breaches and Exceptions

A breach of PHI occurs when an organization uses or improperly discloses PHI. However, they are only required to send alerts for PHI that is not encrypted. In addition to this, there are three additional circumstances in which the breach notification rule is more lenient, during such compliance violations and PHI breaches.

  1. If it was unintentional or done in good faith, and was within the scope of the authority.
  2. If it was done unintentionally between two people permitted to access the PHI.
  3. If the organization has a good faith belief that the person to whom the disclosure was made would not be able to retain the PHI.

Under such a case, the organization should ensure that such incidents don’t reoccur and take corrective action plans. Breach alerts are required only for unsecured PHI. If you secured it as specified by this guidance, then you don’t need to send the alerts. 

Partner with Wheelhouse IT 

You may believe that you can meet the requirements of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) on your own, and you may be right. A HIPAA-verified Managed Service Provider (MSP) makes it much easier to achieve HIPAA compliance than if you were to do it on your own.

To keep your organization and in-house IT department HIPAA compliant, you can rely on Wheelhouse IT. Some of the benefits of working with us include:

  • Conducting HIPAA security risk assessments
  • Encrypting all PHI and stored data
  • Implementing backup and disaster recovery plans to keep data secure
  • Identifying system vulnerabilities and providing high-quality solutions
  • Providing the necessary technology to ensure data security
  • Providing services such as Remote Monitoring Management (RMM), cloud-to-cloud backup, and authentication and access control

WheelHouse IT is ready to help your business navigate HIPAA compliance.

If you are looking for the assistance of an MSP for your HIPAA compliance needs, book time on our calendar below.

The Silent Threat Looming Over Small Medical Practices: A Closer Look at the Importance of HIPAA Compliance

Healthcare Data Breaches

In recent news, McLaren Health, a large health system with 15 hospitals in Michigan, faced a crippling ransomware attack in August 2023. Affiliates of the ALPHV/BlackCat ransomware group were responsible, boasting that they managed to siphon off the sensitive data of nearly 2.5 million patients. But while such incidents often make the headlines because they involve big names, it’s essential for smaller medical practices to recognize that they’re not immune to such risks.

Why Should Smaller Practices Be Concerned?

The magnitude of the McLaren Health breach might feel distant for a small practice, but the principles of the attack and the vulnerabilities exposed are the same, regardless of size. Many smaller medical practices mistakenly believe they’re “too small” to be targeted. However, cybercriminals are often more attracted to smaller entities because they perceive them as having weaker security defenses.

Understanding the Full Impact of Such Breaches

The fallout from the McLaren Health incident was immense. Patient names, IDs, Social Security numbers, and a plethora of other sensitive information were compromised. This breach led to a series of class action lawsuits, accusing the health system of not having the necessary safeguards in place.

Imagine the ramifications for a smaller practice. While the number of affected patients might be lower, the proportional damage to the practice’s reputation and finances could be devastating.

 

 

A Wake-Up Call to Medical Professionals

If you’re a medical professional, especially within a smaller practice, it’s time to ask some hard questions. Are you confident in your current security measures? Are your patient’s privacy and your reputation protected from potential breaches? The HIPAA Journal’s confirmation of the depth of the McLaren breach underscores the critical nature of these questions.

Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel’s statement rings true for all medical entities, big or small: “Organizations that handle our most personal data have a responsibility to implement safety measures that can withstand cyber-attacks.”

The Potential Financial and Legal Impacts

Beyond the obvious ethical responsibility to protect patient data, there are real financial and legal consequences. McLaren Health is battling multiple lawsuits, with plaintiffs alleging negligence, breach of fiduciary duty, and violations of various acts, including the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA).

Smaller practices need to understand that in the eyes of the law, their responsibility is the same as that of larger entities. The potential fines, legal battles, and reputational damage could irreparably harm a small medical practice.

Secure Your Practice with WheelHouse IT

With a strong emphasis on healthcare IT solutions, WheelHouse IT understands the unique challenges that medical practices face. If you’re concerned about the safety of your patient data or if you’re unsure about your HIPAA compliance status, now is the time to act.

The digital realm is fraught with risks, but with the right precautions and an expert IT partner, you can ensure the safety of your patient data and the reputation of your practice. Let’s work together to ensure you’re not just compliant, but truly secure.

Rory Signature
Rory A. Cooksey is the Director of Growth for WheelHouse IT

MGM A Wake-up Call for Business Leaders

MGM Grand Las Vegas Hotel and Casino

MGM, one of the leading resort giants, is reeling from the aftermath of a damaging cyberattack that occurred in September. The assailants successfully accessed a vast amount of personally identifiable information (PII) from MGM’s clientele, an incident that the company anticipates will lead to a staggering $100 million loss.

In a recent filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), MGM detailed the uncertainty surrounding the comprehensive costs of this breach. The silver lining, if any, for the company is its belief that its cyber insurance policy might absorb the majority of the financial fallout.

The compromised data includes customer names, contact details such as phone numbers, emails, postal addresses, genders, birth dates, and driver’s license numbers. More alarmingly, a subset of customers also had their Social Security and passport numbers fall into the wrong hands. The variation in the types of information accessed differs from one individual to another. On a positive note, MGM has assured its customers that critical data like passwords, bank account numbers, and payment card details remained untouched. Additionally, there hasn’t been any identified incident of identity theft or fraudulent activities stemming from this breach.

MGM has been proactive in its response. Collaborating with top-tier cybersecurity experts, the company is working diligently to fortify its digital defenses, signaling its commitment to preventing future breaches. Interestingly, MGM has remained silent on the topic of ransom demands. Yet, sources like The Wall Street Journal suggest that MGM stood its ground, refusing to cave to the hackers’ demands. This is in contrast to Caesars Entertainment, another victim of a similar attack, which is rumored to have parted with a significant sum to stop the exposure of their stolen data.

A Legal Nightmare: The Ripple Effect of the Attack

In the aftermath of the cyber intrusion, MGM finds itself embroiled in six class action lawsuits filed in Nevada District Court. These suits argue that MGM and Caesars Entertainment neglected to secure the personal identifiable information of their loyalty program members. The allegations are grave, suggesting that both entities’ oversights led to sensitive customer data being hijacked by malicious ransomware culprits.

Highlighting the global nature of cyber threats, Eastern European hacker groups, namely ALPHV and Scattered Spider, have declared their involvement in these attacks.

Why This Should Alarm Business Leaders Everywhere

This incident isn’t just a cautionary tale for MGM and similar entities; it’s a stark warning for businesses across the board. Here’s why:

  1. Financial Implications: MGM’s projected loss of $100 million demonstrates that the financial repercussions of a cyberattack can be debilitating. It’s not just about immediate losses; a company’s brand value and future revenue can also take a significant hit.

  2. Legal Challenges: The six class action lawsuits against MGM underscore the growing trend of businesses being held legally accountable for data breaches. This adds an extra layer of potential financial and reputational damage.

  3. Trust and Loyalty at Stake: A company’s relationship with its customers is built on trust. Once that trust is broken, as seen with MGM’s breach, regaining it is a Herculean task.

  4. Global Threat Landscape: The involvement of international hacker groups signifies that cyber threats are borderless. Businesses must be prepared for attacks from any corner of the world.

In conclusion, MGM’s predicament serves as a potent reminder of the dire consequences that arise from not adequately securing one’s digital assets. In an era where data is king, businesses must invest robustly in cybersecurity measures to safeguard their customers, reputation, and bottom line.

Rory Signature
Rory A. Cooksey is the Director of Growth for WheelHouse IT