Patrick Jacobwith
Sunset Dental Technologies
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Cyber Threats and HIPAA Compliance: There is Hope
By Patrick Jacobwith, CEO of Sunset Dental Technologies

Are we at the beginning, middle or end? Please let it be the end. Recent events, such as the ones listed below, have caused many in the business community to think these thoughts – especially in healthcare.

Cyber Crime has exploded. The global cost of cybercrime will reach $2 trillion by 2019, a threefold increase from the 2015 estimate of $500 billion. According to Security Intelligence by IBM, last year IDG detected 38% more cybersecurity incidents than the year prior.

HIPAA enforcement is real. According to the Ponemon study, due to the intensity of compliance and regulations, the costs per breach to organizations in the health care and financial services sectors top all other industry groups.

Small Business Beware! Small and midsized organizations (SMBs), defined as those with less than 1000 employees, are hardly immune to cybercrime – actually quite the opposite. According to Keeper Security’s “The State of SMB Cybersecurity” report, a staggering 50% of small and midsized organizations reported suffering at least one cyber-attack in the last 12 months.

A cyber-attack may be considered a HIPAA breach according to the OCR’s Wall of Shame and as outlined in the following headline from Health IT Security: “Cybersecurity Attacks Leading 2016 Data Breach Cause - the top 10 healthcare data breaches of 2016 were mainly caused by cybersecurity attacks, including ransomware and unauthorized access.”

So the marriage has been made. Cyber-attacks are directly linked to HIPAA breaches. This presents a real and present risk to all dental practices. As we know, a breach can occur at any time and many dental practices are still open doors for cyber criminals. We are not at an end, we are more near the beginning. Cyber criminals are well-funded and becoming increasingly organized.

Ransomware – The Latest Wave
What is ransomware? Ransomware is a virus designed to block access to the data in a system until money is paid. Ransomware is usually planted in a clinic’s network environment via an attachment to an email. The virus immediately does three things:

1. Begins encrypting data on the computers
2. Sends the decryption key to their own “secret” location
3. Grabs all contacts and forwards the nasty email (then it looks like a “friendly email”)

There is Hope
What can we do? In the IT managed services arena, the Dental Integrators Association (DIA) recent national conference discussed this topic at length with guests from the FBI Cybersecurity Division. DIA member companies are well aware of the threats and have been working diligently to create solutions. The best thing you can do is work with a managed IT provider who will secure your systems before you have a breach.

Below are a few simple, short-term tips for each of you. Beyond the short term, please build a plan for the long term.

Simple and Practical suggestions for all dental practices:

  • Partner with a credible IT/Cyber Security company. The DIA and its member companies take these matters seriously.
  • Make Cybercrime and HIPAA a higher priority and invest resources in solutions
  • Cyber Tips
    • Allow the partners to deploy a credible firewall
    • Allow the partners to deploy a credible back-up solution that includes Business Continuity
    • Do not open questionable email attachments! Make sure the attachment is clean. Clean can be because the email was sent via encryption, or just call the sender and verify they actually sent the email.
    • Build a comprehensive plan to address HIPAA in your organization
    • Begin with a HIPAA risk assessment
    • Train your staff
    • Put Business Associate agreements in place
    • Go back to your comprehensive plan

Most importantly, please work with a professional IT company. The Dental Integrators Association is an organization dedicated to educating IT professionals. To be sure you have cutting-edge knowledge on your side, you can find a professional at the Dental Integrators Association website:

Patrick Jacobwith is the CEO of Sunset Dental Technologies, a multi-state organization based in Minnesota, and is also the President of the Dental Integrators Association

Patrick can be reached at

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