Phishing attacks transmitted via email spam are at the highest levels they have been in the last three years . As a result, protecting your organization from malicious malware and data breaches has become more urgent than ever before. SEE ALSO: HIPAA Data Breaches Also Surge During the Age of Coronavirus This is especially true for covered entities that could incur millions of dollars in HIPAA fines if an individual’s protected health information (PHI) is leaked as a result of an employee mishandling email spam.
Email spam is unsolicited junk mail that may include suspicious attachments, malicious macros, or fraudulent requests for information. It typically comes from recently registered domain names (names that are less than seven days old). Email spam is a particular threat to covered entities as well as business associates for the potential to cause a data breach that can lead to a HIPAA violation .
How much spam is there?
According to one study that surveyed over 140 million emails, over 13 percent of them (nearly 20 million emails) included messages that contained some kind of digital threat . That is quite a lot of spam from just one study, so you can extrapolate this to the billions and billions of spam emails that are sent and received every single day in the United States alone. From a purely statistical standpoint, it is easy to see why hospitals and other covered entities need to be so concerned about how they are securing their outbound and inbound email communications.
SEE ALSO: HIPAA Violations Can Bankrupt Your Business – Learning from 21CO’s $2.3M Fine
Understanding digital threats and their consequences
Some types of spam email are more dangerous than others, but any type of spam email can cause a data breach that can compromise your organization and cause a HIPAA violation. The goal of a phishing spam email is to get an email recipient to share important, vital information by masquerading as an entity the recipient can trust. Spear phishing, more specifically, is a pinpointed phishing attack that is directed towards the email recipient and uses their personal information to manipulate them into taking a certain action that can lead them to unknowingly leak sensitive information. According to a Verizon data breach investigation , phishing scams have resulted in a third of all data breaches in the past year. Some phishing emails will install encrypted malware on a computer. If someone opens a spam email and downloads a corrupted macro file, it can exploit security holes in the computer and lead to a massive computer infection.
The role of human error
While it is easy to assume that cybercriminals are hacking into systems and causing data breaches themselves, the bulk of attacks are stem from human error. In fact, a JAMA Internal Medicine report has found that medical providers, not hackers, are more responsible for PHI data breaches. More specifically, 53 percent of leaks were a result of an employee’s mistake. People make judgement errors when it comes to email. Automatic trust in inbound email can lead people to share private information that can harm their company as well as patients. That is why it is important to fight back with a complete HIPAA compliant email solution.
How you can fight back
One of the best things that you can do is make sure you are training your employees to stay wary of suspicious emails that are asking them to send sensitive information or download corrupt documents and files. As studies in overconfidence have shown, this is a real issue that can be managed through better employee training methods, such as investing in ongoing cybersecurity training. Taking inbound security measures will also help to prevent the damage that can occur from email spam attacks. This is where Paubox comes in. In addition to enabling you to send HIPAA compliant email from your existing email platform (such as Google Workspace or Microsoft 365) Paubox Email Suite Plus’s inbound email security features which block spam emails containing malware viruses, and more , your organization can avoid the possibility of losing millions of dollars on HIPAA fines. Paubox Email Suite Plus also comes with our patented ExecProtect feature, so spammers can’t make it seem like an email is coming from your boss or CEO.