This week Augusta University announced a hacker gained access to 417,000 personal health records. We went to a cyber security expert to learn why criminals want this information.
Patterson points out health records are far more valuable than your bank information.
“When something like [credit card information] is stolen, it’s bad, but it’s a one-time event. You’re your protected health information is stolen, it’s stolen for life,” Patterson says.
Your personal health information can be resold over and over again to the highest bidder.
“It has not just what diseases you may or may not have it has your finger prints, it has all of your background information, it has your social security number,” Patterson explains. “All of that is bundled up in a nice neat little package and that goes on the dark web for more than 10 times what a credit card sells for today.”
Criminals are using this information for the following reasons:
- Healthcare Fraud: Pretending to be someone else and receiving medical treatment under their identity
- Health Insurance Fraud: Illegally getting money from the large insurance companies
- Identity Theft: Using social security numbers etc. attached to health records
- Extortion: Requesting payment in return for silence about diseases, conditions etc.
“You now have people going in and getting medical treatment using someone else’s background and someone else’s insurance and people don’t even realize it until they start to get the bills,” Patterson says.
If someone hijacks your medical information and impersonates you for treatment, it is a long battle to fix the situation, if you are able to at all.
“You get into a paperwork tangle,” Patterson describes. “You spend years and maybe decades of your life trying to explain, no that wasn’t me…It may not be money out of your pocket ultimately. You may get that back, but every time you need to go in and do something, it’s going to be a lot more difficult for you to go get that done.”
This is why it is crucial for organizations to protect the information you give them, which is getting more difficult to do.
“Hospitals are now interconnected, everything’s on the internet. We’ve all got these healthcare devices that we wear around,” Patterson points out.
Here is the extra step he says you should take to protect yourself.
“You already make choices on which hospitals you want to go to, which doctors you want to work on you. Start also looking at how well they protect their information… The attackers are bold, their good, their audacious and they’re very successful so it takes organizations that you chose to deal with that equal counter measures so that they can keep the bad guys at bay.”
CLICK HERE if you would like to learn more information about the cyber-attack on Augusta University. The site contains advice for what you should do if you are concerned about your personal information.