The past several years have been exciting ones for the medical sector, with terms such as AI, revolutionising, blockchain and automation coming up frequently.
However, it seems that 2019 is being dominated by a much darker term: hacker. Hacks and data breaches are appearing with almost daily regularity, exposing our most sensitive and private online information for others to do with as they please.
In 2019 alone, a staggering 4.4 billion accounts around the world have had their information and details stolen, according to digital identity management group SelfKey.
This may involve relatively harmless data, such as names and dates of birth, but may also include people’s bank account details and social security numbers. Also, this estimate is considered quite conservative and it’s worth remembering that many hackers can remain undetected for months or years, collecting information in peace before they are discovered.
Why are we so vulnerable?
As it turns out, our data is seldom properly guarded, and many databases have been found with user details and passwords in plain text.
It was recently reported that ProPublica, an investigative journal, was able to find medical records and images of millions of Americans, such as X-rays and MRIs, available for open access on the internet.
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Surely this must have been the result of a hack? Unfortunately no. “It’s walking into an open door,” as Jackie Singh, a cybersecurity expert at Spyglass Security, told ProPublica.
ProPublica was able to access these databases with no more sophisticated tools than the web browsers you and I have access to. This shows a stunning lack of initiative by our healthcare providers and their willingness to take even basic steps to safeguard our data.
ProPublica said: “We identified 187 servers — computers that are used to store and retrieve medical data — in the US that were unprotected by passwords or basic security precautions. The computer systems, from Florida to California, are used in doctors’ offices, medical imaging centres and mobile X-ray services.”
Quick steps anyone can do to help protect their data include having different passwords for each of the sites they use, as well as an automated credit check service that alerts you if a line of credit or loan has been taken out in your name. These are very basic steps that will allow anyone to shield themselves from the worst that this new age has to offer.