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Report: Healthcare Hacking Incidents Rose 42% in 2020

Analysis  |  By Revenue Cycle Advisor  
   April 13, 2021

The study found that hacking incidents increased for the fifth consecutive year.

A version of this article was first published April 13, 2021, by HCPro's Revenue Cycle Advisor, a sibling publication to HealthLeaders.

Hacking incidents in healthcare increased dramatically as organizations dealt with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic throughout 2020, according to a recent report from Protenus, a Baltimore-based healthcare analytics company.

The 2021 Breach Barometer, which was published by Protenus in March, covers 758 health data breaches reported to HHS, the media, or other sources during the 2020 calendar year.

The study found that hacking incidents increased for the fifth consecutive year. Overall, 470 hacking incidents were reported in 2020, an increase of 42% from the previous year.

The data showed that hacking incidents against healthcare organizations have been steadily rising:

  • 2016: 126 hacking incidents
  • 2017: 178
  • 2018: 222
  • 2019: 330
  • 2020: 470

Additionally, the total number of patient records breached by hacking has surged over the past two years:

  • 2016: 23,695,069 records
  • 2017: 3,436,742
  • 2018: 11,335,514
  • 2019: 36,911,960
  • 2020: 31,080,823

Hacking incidents accounted for 62% of healthcare data breaches in 2020, according to the report, while insider error was responsible for 20% and 8% were categorized as loss/theft.

Ten percent of the data breaches were due to unknown causes. The Protenus report identified ransomware as a specific hacking threat that appears to be on the rise.

The report highlighted the emerging ransomware trend in which cybercriminals threaten to publicly dump the data if the organization refuses to pay the ransom.

For more information, see the full Protenus report.

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