By Sy Mukherjee
September 25, 2018

Good afternoon, readers. This is Sy.

Health care is a hacker’s playground. The sensitive personal and financial information stored in medical records and the systems which house them offers plenty of opportunities for digital delinquents; in fact, studies have shown that a large share of ransomware attacks are health care-related, likely for this very reason.

A new report says these data breaches are on the rise. An analysis of attacks reported to the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of Civil Rights between January 2010 and December 2017—and published in the medical journal JAMA—finds that there were 2,149 such breaches in that time period involving a stunning grand total of 176.4 million patient records.

But the most telling part of the study involves where such hacks occurred. Although, nominally speaking, the largest number of breaches involved health care providers (doctors’ offices, etc), the kinds of attacks that led to the largest amount of stolen patient data happened at the health plan level. In fact, more than 60% of the breaches involving data that was actually stolen stemmed from health plans (and, the authors note, the frequency and severity of breaches have been getting worse year after year).

That is, to put it lightly, extremely unfortunate since this is the kind of information that many researchers and public health experts say is important to have in centralized databases for easy accessibility and research purposes. But it goes to show that centralization, just like data silos, has its own discontents.

Read on for the day’s news.

Sy Mukherjee


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