Government and healthcare organizations garnered a lot of attention this week—and not for good reason. A number of federal agencies, medical facilities and healthcare companies experienced cyberattacks and data breaches, putting at risk the personally identifiable information of consumers and patients. Here's a roundup of identity theft and data security news.
Chinese Military Groups Hack Into VA Networks
The Veteran Affairs Department suffered a blow this week when a former security chief said Chinese military groups had hacked into its computer networks. At least eight foreign-sponsored organizations connected to the Chinese military compromised the networks, according to Jerry Davis's testimony before a House subcommittee. According to The Washington Post, the former VA computer security chief said he became aware of the attacks in March 2010 and that they continue to this day.
Americans Express Concern Over Security of Personal Information
Consumers are worried about how data breaches at large organizations may put their personal information at risk. A recent Unisys Security Index showed that 82 percent of Americans surveyed feared that their information could be hacked or leaked to the public. Survey participants are mainly concerned about banks: Roughly 67 percent of respondents said they were anxious about data security at financial institutions. Nearly 62 percent said they were concerned about breaches at federal, state and local public sector agencies, Info Security reported. Other industries that cause apprehension: Healthcare organizations, telecommunications and Internet service providers.
Patient Privacy Breached
When medical records and patient personal information is exposed, Americans may face severe consequences, Bloomberg reported this week. Embarrassment may be the first consequence that comes to mind, but when medical histories and other sensitive data is either hacked into by identity thieves or released to the public due to a clerical or technical error, patients can also lose out on potential jobs and end up paying more for medical insurance, the source said. It doesn't take much personal information about a patient to put the pieces of the puzzle together, either. Even if it is just a patient's ZIP code and dates of when they sought medical attention are released, people can use that information to find out when they may have been in a hospital, and from there, find their medical history, Bloomberg reported.
Medical Facility Leaks Personal Information
The University of Massachusetts Center for Language, Speech and Hearing had to recently inform approximately 1,600 of its patients that their personal information may have been compromised. The medical facility suffered a data breach, Health IT Security reported this week. A malware program infected a workstation that stored patients' Social Security numbers, addresses, health insurance companies and their primary doctors.
Matt Cullina is chief executive officer at IDentity Theft 911.