The cost of complacency: lessons from the Ernest Health data breach

Ernest Health

When it comes to your digital health and safety, the line between being protected and being vulnerable can be alarmingly thin. The recent cybersecurity incident at Ernest Health Inc., a Texas-based network of rehabilitation and long-term acute care hospitals, starkly highlights this reality. The breach, executed by the notorious Russian cybercriminal group LockBit, compromised vast amounts of sensitive patient data, triggering not only a significant operational setback but also an almost assured costly legal battle.

Opportunity Costs of Late Cybersecurity Reactions

Cybersecurity is often treated as an IT-only issue… until a breach occurs. But as you can certainly imagine, a breach’s repercussions extend far beyond the IT department. For Ernest Health, the breach was not detected until a month after the initial attack, and it took an additional 73 days before affected patients were informed. This delay not only exacerbated the risk to patients’ financial and personal security but also eroded trust, an essential asset for any healthcare provider.

The fallout from the breach serves as a critical reminder: the cost of implementing robust cybersecurity measures is often perceived as high, but it pales in comparison to the consequences of a breach. Companies may balk at the expenses of advanced security solutions and staff training, but these costs are comparatively cheap investments compared to the legal fees, damages, and lost business following a data compromise.

Industry Standards: A Benchmark Not Met

Ernest Health is facing a class-action lawsuit from patients whose data was stolen in the breach; the allegations against Ernest Health are severe. The plaintiffs argue that the hospital system failed to adhere to industry standards and Federal Trade Commission guidelines, which stipulate rigorous cybersecurity practices to safeguard sensitive information. Compliance with these standards is not merely a regulatory requirement; it is a crucial defensive measure. The plaintiffs claim that by not following the established guidelines, Ernest failed in its duty to protect them (and as is made clear by the class-action lawsuit, that alleged failure has opened Ernest Health to potentially severe legal repercussions).

Furthermore, the allegation that Ernest Health only bolstered its security measures post-breach — and recognized these measures as necessary only after the fact — suggests a reactive rather than proactive approach to cybersecurity. In the digital age, a reactive stance is a precarious gamble that businesses, particularly those handling sensitive data, cannot afford to make.

A Learning Moment for SMBs

The Ernest Health incident is a stark warning to small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) across Texas. Yes, Ernest Health isn’t exactly an SMB, but these types of attacks are not limited only to larger institutions — they’re being seen more and more in smaller companies too. The rise in cyber-attacks, particularly in sectors handling critical data, is no longer an emerging trend but rather a persistent threat. SMBs often hesitate to allocate sufficient resources to cybersecurity, viewing it as a non-essential expense. That perception has to change. Investing in cybersecurity is not just about protecting data; it’s about safeguarding your business’s future, reputation, and the trust of your customers.

At Leverage Technologies, we understand the stakes. We specialize in managing IT and cyber defenses for SMBs across Texas. We believe in a proactive approach, ensuring that your data is protected before threats emerge. Our team of experts provides comprehensive cybersecurity solutions tailored to meet the unique challenges faced by your business (without you having to staff up permanently to deal with these very real threats).

Don’t wait for a breach to highlight the vulnerabilities in your system. Contact Leverage Technologies today, and let us help you secure your digital assets, ensuring your business’s resilience against cyber threats. Remember, in the world of cybersecurity, an ounce of prevention is worth far more than a pound of cure. Give us a shout, and take the first step toward a more secure future.