US health data breaches hit record; Healthcare.gov backdoored?

Security firm Redspin reports a total of 7.1 million affected records in 2013, up from 3 million in 2012. The five largest breaches accounted for 85 percent of the total: Advocate Health, Horizon BCBSNJ, AHMC Healthcare, Texas Health Harris Methodist Hospital Fort Worth and Indiana Family & Social Services Administration. Hardware theft of unencrypted devices accounted for the first three; Texas Health was perhaps the most unique because it disposed of over 277,000 microfiche patient records in a city park, making it the winner of last May’s ‘It’s Just Mulch’ award in ‘The exploding black market in healthcare data’.  Not included in the Redspin report (free download here) was a mid-December breach of 405,000 records at Bryan, Texas-based St. Joseph Health System which would have put it fourth on the list. This took place in a two-day data security attack on their servers traced to China and reported to the FBI. While Redspin attributes only six percent of breaches to hacking, this is an amount sure to increase as more information is digitized. Health Data Management, iHealthBeat, FierceHealthIT  Security breaches, natural disasters and outages are events that cost US hospitals over $1.6 billion annually, and 82 percent of health IT executives surveyed by MeriTalk said that their technology infrastructure is “not fully prepared for a disaster recovery incident.” The $1.6 billion seems low in light of the Ponemon Institute’s 2012 health data breach estimate of $7 billion annually–and the $12 billion in victim costs [TTA 14 Sept 13]. FierceHealthIT

.…and wait till Healthcare.gov-related security breaches start. This Editor stopped beating the dead and quartered horse of Healthcare.gov last year, finding that what was suspected and detailed from the start was simply borne out by subsequent revelations. Another example: the recent revelation that US intelligence agencies are highly concerned that code in the website was produced by programmers in Belarus, a former Soviet republic closely allied to that hotbed of hacking, Russia. That means that ‘backdoors’ are right in the code, waiting to be opened. This affects more than the website–but through the hub, states, HHS, IRS and DHS. How did our Washington types find out about it? When a top Belarusian official bragged on state radio about it! Ace intelligence writer Bill Gertz in the Washington Times broke the story. (Want more on the website’s security problems? See here for more on the Gertz story plus the David Kennedy/TrustedSec testimony and more. But bring your preferred headache remedy!)

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