Who’s After Your Healthcare Data?

December 3rd, 2014 / By Jeremy Zasowski

It has been impossible to ignore the number of data breaches in the news lately. Whether you have been directly affected or not, one thing is certain: data security should be a top priority, especially in the healthcare industry. This eye-opening article talks about the new focus of hackers: targeting healthcare data. Healthcare data is extremely valuable when compared to the current value of Social Security numbers or credit card numbers on the black market. John Halamka, CIO at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center in Boston, sums it up:

While a stolen Social Security number might sell for 25 cents in the underground market, and a credit card number might fetch $1, “A comprehensive medical record for me to get free surgery might be $1,000,” Halamka says. “It is a commodity that is hot on the black Internet [market].”

We are all aware of how important data security is for patient privacy and HIPAA compliance, but as healthcare moves increasingly into the digital online world, data security requirements change dramatically from the days of just securing a patient’s paper chart. Financial firms and banks have been heavily investing in data and online security, as they have been top targets for hackers looking to get their customers’ financial data. These companies have invested in personnel and technology to add layers of security to their systems, as well as internal protocols and standards.

Efforts to prevent data breaches by the financial sector indicate that it’s not just about the technology; organizations must establish a culture of “data security” from top to bottom. As noted in a recent Government Health IT article:

“Hospitals, medical centers, and the like are continuously investing in new medical technologies (scanners, lasers, etc.) as they should; however, technologies and best practices to ensure patient data protection should not play second fiddle.”

Here are some useful links to articles that give an overview of the issue and discuss steps organizations can take to improve the security of their data: “Health care data breaches have hit 30M patients and counting

“The recent theft of 4.5 million medical records by Chinese hackers highlights one undeniable truth about health care data: it’s valuable, and bad people want it. In this latest incident, hackers reportedly stole personal data from Community Health Systems patients, including their Social Security numbers, which is an especially coveted piece of information if you want to steal someone’s identity.”

5 ways health data breaches are far worse than financial ones

“Hospitals, medical centers, and the like are continuously investing in new medical technologies (scanners, lasers, etc.) as they should; however, technologies and best practices to ensure patient data protection should not play second fiddle.”

5 Essentials to Reduce Healthcare Data Breaches

“Securing personal smart phones and tablets is much harder than securing company-managed devices—so take the focus off the devices themselves, and focus on securing the actual data.”

Jeremy Zasowswki is marketing manager for 3M Health Information System’s Emerging Business Team.