Insider Threat Management

How to Meet HIPAA Compliance Requirements with Insider Threat Monitoring

Share with your network!

To most non-healthcare industry folks, healthcare data security is a matter of “doctor-patient confidentiality.” Something that is as simple to protect as choosing the right doctor, and building a relationship of trust, based on a universal code of ethics.

The reality is very different, however. Healthcare’s transformation and adoption of new, interconnected technology and partnerships is occurring rapidly.

What was once a simple 1:1 relationship between a patient and a doctor has grown into a relationship with many different people, databases, and systems. To help establish standards for the confidentiality, security, and sharing of vital healthcare data, HIPAA (or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act) was formed. Since its establishment, HIPAA has grown to be a major determinant in how patient data is safeguarded and used by emerging healthcare technologies.

If you ask a healthcare professional, they’ll tell you that there are a great many challenges to maintaining HIPAA compliance, particularly when it comes to securing valuable, personal data among all of the technologies they utilize. With so many moving parts, the problem may seem like a technology issue, but in many cases meeting and maintaining HIPAA compliance requirements depends more on people than tech.

Addressing the “People Problem”

According to a Proteus Breach Barometer report, around 1.13 million patient records were compromised in 110 healthcare data branches in the first quarter of 2018. The report also found that “If healthcare employees breach patient privacy once, there is a greater than 20 percent change they will breach it again in three months’ time, and there is a greater than 54 percent chance they will do it again in one year.”

In other words, the threat to patient data privacy is very real.

While many cybersecurity or IT teams at these organizations do take precautions, working to maintain HIPAA compliance (or sometimes HITRUST-CSF, and other systems of compliance), teams often lack the visibility into what their employees or partners are doing with patient data. They are leaving themselves open to an insider threat incident, which in most healthcare scenarios would mean a HIPAA violation or data breach.

The good news is that the risk of a “people problem” or insider threat can be mitigated by improving visibility into the actions of users, policy communication, in-the-moment coaching, and having the ability to rapidly investigate incidents when they occur.

How Insider Threat Monitoring Tackles HIPAA Compliance

Deploying an insider threat management tool like Proofpoint ITM can help healthcare cybersecurity teams detect insider threats, streamline the incident investigation process, maintain HIPAA compliance (and other types), and prevent data breaches, without slowing your organization’s day-to-day performance.

Another way to look at it is to consider insider threat monitoring as a hands-off, scalable approach to managing a challenging “people problem.” Unlike other tools, it focuses on tracking user behavior and interactions with systems and data, rather than locking them down with cumbersome tags, limitations, and rules, and can satisfy even the strictest interpretation of HIPAA requirements within hours. Not days, weeks, months, or a year.

5 HIPAA Requirements Insider Threat Monitoring Tools Help Address:

  1. 308 – Compliance Reviews
    Easily access comprehensive user activity audits and reports on-demand, and (optionally) automatically distribute reports to the right people.
  2. 306 – Security Standards
    Coach user behavior in the event that they are about to breach policy or HIPAA compliance standards, update them on policy changes, or ensure understanding of policy with in-the-moment messaging.
  3. 308 – Administrative Safeguards
    Understand how your users are accessing systems and data with full metadata capture (both text-based and video), tracking access to files, folders, and policy breaching keyword triggers and alerts.
  4. 132 – Technical Safeguards
    Obtain visibility into every user action (with the ability to anonymize key identifying information), including applications without internal logs, so you can understand exactly what a user did. In addition, it is possible to provide manual and automatic log off to any system.
  5. 414 – Administrative Requirements & Burden of Proof
    Proofpoint ITM ties all visual and textual metadata logs to individual users, thanks to a requirement for individual credentials to access systems, servers, and networks, ensuring that all data is captured in the event that proof of policy or compliance breach is needed.

What’s Next?

As the healthcare industry continues to innovate, and embrace emerging technologies, protection and secure sharing of patient data will continue to be a primary challenge. By better understanding the intentions of both external and insider threats, as well as deploying the right tools and strategies, healthcare cybersecurity and IT teams will be able to adjust appropriately to detect and prevent potential HIPAA violations and incidents before they occur.

In healthcare terms, take on a more proactive approach to insider threats in order to improve overall cybersecurity health outcomes.


To learn more about how insider threat monitoring tools like Proofpoint ITM can help you maintain HIPAA compliance, be sure to download our whitepaper on How to Demonstrate HIPAA Compliance.