For the past decade, breaches in medical records have been on the rise. Over 70 % of the American population has become a victim of healthcare-related fraud. More than 230 billion medical records have been reported misplaced, stolen, or exposed. Healthcare hackers keep finding innovative ways to steal bulk portions of sensitive patient information that they can later resell or maliciously use. The black market for medical records is blooming at the expense of healthcare providers, insurance companies, and the general population.
Why is Healthcare Data So Vulnerable to Attacks?
One of the most imminent issues with the digitalization and improved accessibility to medical records is the lack of adequate cybersecurity. Most problems stem from the fact that the medical practitioners responsible for tech decisions lack the necessary expertise in that field. When sensitive healthcare data is only protected by outdated encryption tools and firewalls, the patient’s medical files are extremely vulnerable to attacks.
The Underground Market for Stolen Medical Records
While healthcare advancements, gadgets, and mobile applications have gained momentum among consumers and providers alike, hackers have monetized on the opportunity to breach, sell, and spread their most sensitive information.
The lucrative medical records have some of the highest trading power on the underground market, often outbidding sensitive financial or personal information. The prices range from as low as $10 per medical record to as much as $120 per. Once someone acquires the file, they can use the information on it to purchase fake prescriptions, labels, healthcare cards, and make false health insurance claims.
The Threats of Stolen Medical Data
Given the sensitivity and scope of medical records, various potential threats of its malicious use have arisen. Some of the most prominent ones include:
When one’s medical files contain information regarding a lifelong disease or terminal illness, extortion and coercion are likely to occur. The vulnerable patient is afraid of their medical history being exposed to the public at large, which is what the hacker preys on. Often, monetary payoff and other forms of bribery are demanded to prevent the spread of private information. Even then, the main concern of further medical identity theft remains unresolved.
· Long-term identity theft
Unlike typical credit card thefts, where financial institutions could flag the fraudulent activities, track them, and prevent further abuse, medical institutions have no insurance against the repercussions of long-term identity theft. Some serious concerns regarding tax fraud and home equity loan fraud have been raised. With the diversity and extent of private information contained in one’s medical files, the range of criminal activities is varied, and the potential long-term harm on the patient, unparalleled.
Minimizing the Risks of Security Breaches in Healthcare
On the end of healthcare providers, updated cybersecurity measures are long overdue. Close monitoring of who, when, and what types of devices access medical records is necessary to reduce the risks of potential breaches of privacy. Outdated computer systems in the medical sector have to be replaced with contemporary equipment. Medical personnel should be trained regarding the safest ways of working with vulnerable information. Consumers should also pull their part and be extremely cautious when disclosing any personal data.