Another publicly accessible Amazon S3 repository has been once again been left exposing sensitive consumer information, this time affecting approximately 150,000 U.S. patients.
Kromtech Security Researchers discovered the exposed server belonging to Patient Home Monitoring Corp. which contained in 47.5 GB worth of data in the form of 316,363 PDF reports detailing weekly blood test results including patient and doctor names, case management notes, other client information and the Development Server Backup.
The vulnerable server was spotted on Sept. 29 and researchers said they notified the company on Oct 5. and by Oct. 6, the bucket had been secured. Kromtech pointed out that the company’s privacy page stated that patients have the right to be notified when their information is being accessed and that it’s unclear how or if patients will be notified of the incident.
The HIPAA Breach Notification Rule requires covered entities to notify affected individuals, HHS, and in some cases, the media of a breach of unsecured PHI. Most notifications must be provided without unreasonable delay and no later than 60 days following the discovery of a breach. fines can range from $100 to $50,000 per violation (or per record), with a maximum penalty of $1.5 million per year for each violation.
Some researchers aren’t surprised that admins are misconfiguring Amazon S3 buckets and leaving them exposed with the rapid adoption of the new technology.
“The Amazon S3 bucket can be easily switched from private to public access – with public being the default.” Josh Mayfield, platform specialist, Immediate Insight at FireMon said. “With the speed that organizations are moving to AWS and cloud infrastructure, it is only natural to miss something.”
Mayfield said companies should have policy controls that are automated irrespective of future technology so that admins don’t have to sacrifice security for speed and that added that policy management consoles with the flexibility to handle heterogeneous infrastructures and devices are invaluable.
Other researchers weren’t as forgiving. AlienVault Security Advocate Javvad Malik said the issue of misconfigured cloud services is a growing problem and a lack of skill may be to blame.
“As more and more companies migrate datasets to the cloud, it is becoming apparent that many lack the cloud skills needed to secure the cloud infrastructure, gain assurance that the cloud infrastructure is secured appropriately, or monitor their cloud environments for unauthorized access,” Malik said. “While cloud can bring benefits of having a resilient infrastructure, security cannot be outsourced, and much of the responsibility remains with the customer.”
Malik added that unfortunately, the people affected the most are the patients who have had their sensitive information exposed. Researchers agreed mistakes like this emphasize the impact breaches like this can have on individuals.
The narrative surrounding breaches is so often defined by the financial implications, but the impact of medical records being leaked on individuals could be equally if not more damaging,” DomainTools Senior Sybersecurity Threat Researcher Kyle Wilhoit said. “Revealing potentially sensitive personally identifiable information could impact an individual’s employment or it could be used by criminals/state entities for targeted attacks, such as spear phishing.”
Wilhoit said Medical organizations need to start taking the data they have access to as seriously as financial organizations, all assets must be discovered and tested against current vulnerabilities and patches must be deployed quickly.