Disruptionware V: Malicious Cyber Actors Attack a Florida Water Treatment Facility

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We have posted four previous articles discussing the foundation and structure of what a disruptionware attack is, how their attack matrix works, possible defenses to disruptionware attacks and industries that are very susceptible to these attacks. Disruptionware has proven over the last year that it is a growing and dangerous cyber threat to our data, our businesses and possibly our lives.

Disruptionware attacks typically involve ransomware and they aim to encrypt and hold the victim’s data hostage. Such attacks are usually financially motivated, and, to date, there have fortunately been only a few known examples where the disruptionware attack has resulted in threats to health and safety or caused loss of life. When such significant collateral damage has occurred, it typically appears to have been inadvertently caused.

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Fifth Circuit Decision Motivates Covered Entities to Appeal Unreasonable Enforcement Outcomes

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The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit (the “Court”) vacated a $4,348,000 civil monetary penalty (“CMP”) imposed by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (“HHS-OCR”) in 2017 against the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center (“MD Anderson”) for alleged violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (“HIPAA”) Privacy Rule and HIPAA Security Rule. The Court held that OCR’s actions were “arbitrary, capricious, and otherwise unlawful” and remanded the case for further proceedings. While the case is not binding precedent outside the Fifth Circuit, MD Anderson is the first HIPAA Covered Entity to appeal its fine to a Circuit Court since the HIPAA Privacy Rule and the HIPAA Security Rule took effect. The ruling likely will motivate future HIPAA settlement negotiations with HHS-OCR and encourage HIPAA Covered Entities to appeal enforcement outcomes they consider unreasonable.

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