CBS47 On Your Side: Hackers are targeting your medical records at an alarming rate


When hospitals have access to your electronic medical records, you get better care.

Depending on what you’re admitted for, readily available digital health information could be the difference between life and death.

But information made digital is information made hackable.

In those records are your credit cards, social security number, and other private and personal information tied to your identity.

In June, the lab testing company Quest Diagnostics revealed hackers got access to the personal information of some 12 million patients.

Days later another testing company, Labcorp, announced nearly eight million of its customers’ records were exposed.

The Department of Health and Human Services tracks health data breaches and almost weekly multiple hacks are reported, targeting everything from hospitals to insurance providers to device manufacturers.

Eva Velasquez, with Identity Theft Resource Center says, “Unfortunately it’s a huge problem. The theft of medical data is just growing.”

Experts say the number of medical records stolen has tripled in the past year.

Besides financial fraud, criminals also use stolen medical information for illegally acquiring medical supplies and services.

Velasquez says, “What that means is the thieves are getting better at getting the right data during each incident, each attack.”

A new study in the Annals of Internal Medicine found more than 1,300 medical related outlets were breached in the past 10 years compromising 169 million patient records.

Researchers at Michigan State University say most of the time criminals are getting access to sensitive information.

Xuefeng Jiang, PhD., with the Eli Broad College of Business at Michigan State says, “Their driver’s license number, social security number, address, names, email address, phone number.”

Jiang says that info is a goldmine for crooks because it can be used to open up credit cards and other accounts in your name.

He says think twice before sharing your personal information.

He says, “When they’re asking for your social security number, and sensitive data ask them why do they need it, leave it blank say you refuse to provide it.”

Unfortunately, that’s not always an option because some facilities require it, forcing patients to make a difficult choice.

What can you do?

  • Ask your medical facility about their security.
  • A lot of medical facilities use portals, so you can check your lab results, create a secure hard password.
  • When using your computer, or smart phone, see what kinds of permissions each mobile app is asking for.

Security breaches pose a big challenge for the health care industry in the years to come.

However, as knowledge of hacking methods become more widespread, providers can meet the challenge head-on, remembering that the digital age brings much more than just additional problems, but also additional solutions that just might save a patient’s life someday.

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