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Experts: 90% of medical records are vulnerable to hackers

Thu, 08/21/2014 - 10:47am
A.J. Watts, Editorial Intern

Many tech-savvy people take major precautions to guard themselves against hackers by encrypting their personal data and protecting their Wi-Fi at home. Sadly, hospitals and clinics haven’t taken those same precautions and are under attack by data breaches and hacking. They are being hit harder than any other industry, even more than the banking and military industries combined.

According to privacy researchers at the Ponemon Institute, “recent numbers show 90% of health care organizations have exposed their patients' data -- or had it stolen -- in 2012 and 2013.” We all go to the doctor and give up considerable amounts of personal information and medical records. So this definitely puts everyone in a helpless situation.

The medical industry has already lost 2.1 million records. That doesn’t even include the 4.5 million names and Social Security numbers taken from Community Health Systems' computer network.

But what’s the reason for all of these attacks on the healthcare industry?

Hackers are stealing people’s information because of the value they have on the black market. By accessing patient files they are able to fraudulently bill insurance or Medicare. They can also use the identities of those patients to schedule visits or consultations. But the main reason is to pose as patients to get their hands on prescriptions so they can either use them or sell those drugs later on for profit on the street.

The healthcare industry is one of the busiest in not only the country, but the world. They are working hard to help people and save lives. Unfortunately, this means that they aren’t devoting enough time to make sure they have the most up-to-date tech on hand. This results in mass breaches because they are no longer receiving security updates for their software, which ends up leaving them defenseless to hackers.

CNN reports, “Doctors and hospitals also rarely encrypt all of the data they keep on us. The federal health records protection law, the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, doesn't demand that hospitals and physicians use encryption.”

Lisa Gallagher, a security expert at the health nonprofit HIMSS, described the condition of IT in the health care industry as "vulnerable and challenged."

"Everyone in health care is working at this very hard, but there's a huge learning curve and it's underfunded," said Gallagher.

With all patient records becoming completely digitized, everyone needs to be forewarned about the danger of their records falling into the wrong hands. These breaches will become a regular occurrence, and the situation will likely worsen.

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