A HIPAA Breach has been reported at lawnmower engine manufacturer Briggs Stratton which may have affected 12,789 of its employees and potentially resulted in the exposure of names, addresses, dates of birth, driver’s license numbers, Social Security numbers, health plan IDs, insurance information, passport numbers, work-related evaluations, and login details to its work systems.
There has been no proof to suggest the misuse of any health plan data, although employees impacted by the breach have been offered credit monitoring and identity theft protection services for one year without charge. Measures have also been taken to enhance security to prevent similar incidents from happening in the future.
When the company experienced a potential violation of staff information, the incident was a reportable security breach, OCR required notification, and notification letters had to be sent to its employees.
Briggs Stratton was required to adhere to HIPAA Rules due to its self-insured group health plan. Employers and health plan sponsors are obligated to ensure that HIPAA policies are put in place for their group health plans, that any ePHI created, accessed, stored, or transmitted is safeguarded to the standards required by the HIPAA Security Rule and all HIPAA Rules are respected. That includes entering into business associate agreements with any body that has access to the ePHI of its employees, is provided with ePHI, or has access to systems storing ePHI.
When there is a violation of that private information, the HIPAA Breach Notification Rule is applicable. In the case of Briggs Stratton, the breach was a hacking attack leading to a potential unauthorized release of ePHI. Malware was discovered on its systems which potentially gave unauthorized people access to the system where ePHI was held. Access to the system was possible between July 25 and July 28, 2017. Briggs Stratton discovered the incident on July 25, and took steps to contain the attack. Notifications were not issued until September 30, 2017 due to an official law enforcement investigation into the malware attack.
The incident serves as a timely reminder that not all HIPAA covered bodies fall under the standard classification of healthcare providers, health plans or business associates, and even firms not involved in the healthcare sector may still be obligated to comply with HIPAA Rules and can face penalties for non-compliance with HIPAA Rules.
In the case of Briggs Stratton, the firm was knowledgeable of it obligations, had implemented a HIPAA compliance program, and acted accordingly when a potential data breach happened.