4 Tips to Protect Your Information During Medical Data Breaches
As the companies we trust with our data become more digital, it’s important for users to realize how this affects their own cybersecurity. Take your medical care provider, for instance. You walk into a doctor’s office and fill out a form on a clipboard. This information is then transferred to a computer where a patient Electronic Health Record is created or added to. We trust that our healthcare provider has taken the proper precautions to safely store this data. Unfortunately, medical data breaches are on the rise with a 70% increase over the past seven years. In fact, medical testing company LabCorp just announced that it experienced a breach affecting approximately 7.7 million customers.
How exactly did this breach occur? The information was exposed as a result of an issue with a third-party billing collections vendor, American Medical Collection Agency (AMCA). The information exposed includes names, addresses, birth dates, balance information, and credit card or bank account information provided by customers to AMCA. This breach comes just a few days after Quest Diagnostics, another company who worked with AMCA, announced that they too experienced a breach affecting 11.9 million users.
Luckily, LabCorp stated that they do not store or maintain Social Security numbers and insurance information for their customers. Additionally, the company provided no ordered test, lab results, or diagnostic information to AMCA. LabCorp stated that they intend to provide 200,000 affected users with more specific information regarding the breach and offer them with identity protection and credit monitoring services for two years. And after receiving information on the possible security compromise, AMCA took down its web payments page and hired an external forensics firm to investigate the situation.
Medical data is essentially nonperishable in nature, making it extremely valuable to cybercrooks. It turns out that quite a few security vulnerabilities exist in the healthcare industry, such as unencrypted traffic between servers, the ability to create admin accounts remotely, and disclosure of private information. These types of vulnerabilities could allow cybercriminals to access healthcare systems, as our McAfee Labs researchers discovered. If someone with malicious intent did access the system, they would have the ability to permanently alter medical images, use medical research data for extortion, and more.
Cybercriminals are constantly pivoting their tactics and changing their targets in order to best complete their schemes. As it turns out, medical data has become a hot commodity for cybercrooks. According to the McAfee Labs Threats Report from March 2018, the healthcare sector has experienced a 210% increase in publicly disclosed security incidents from 2016 to 2017. The McAfee Advanced Threat Research Team concluded that many of the incidents were caused by failures to comply with security best practices or to address vulnerabilities in medical software.
While medical care providers should do all that they can to ensure the security of their patients, there are steps users can take to help maintain their privacy. If you think your personal or financial information might be affected by the recent breaches, check out the following tips to help keep your personal data secure:
- Place a fraud alert.If you suspect that your data might have been compromised, place a fraud alert on your credit. This not only ensures that any new or recent requests undergo scrutiny, but also allows you to have extra copies of your credit report so you can check for suspicious activity.
- Freeze your credit.Freezing your credit will make it impossible for criminals to take out loans or open up new accounts in your name. To do this effectively, you will need to freeze your credit at each of the three major credit-reporting agencies (Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian).
- Consider using identity theft protection.A solution like McAfee Identify Theft Protection will help you to monitor your accounts, alert you of any suspicious activity, and help you to regain any losses in case something goes wrong.
- Be vigilant about checking your accounts.If you suspect that your personal data has been compromised, frequently check your bank account and credit activity. Many banks and credit card companies offer free alerts that notify you via email or text messages when new purchases are made, if there’s an unusual charge, or when your account balance drops to a certain level. This will help you stop fraudulent activity in its tracks.
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