Report: Healthcare hacks "likely to increase in frequency" in coming years

February 13, 2013 by Arezu Sarvestani

Malicious hackers are likely to target healthcare databases and patient medical records with increasing frequency in coming years, according to technology security auditing firm Redspin.

Healthcare information security

Malicious hacking poses a grave threat to healthcare providers, and the likelihood of being targeted may be increasing in coming years, according to an audit by technology security firm Redspin.

Hacking-related incidents represented about 6% of all reported healthcare data breaches from 2009 to January 2013, but that figure is projected to grow, Redspin researchers said.

"We expect that the low incidence rate of hacking during the past few years was the calm before the storm," according to the report. "Personal health records are high value targets for cybercriminals as they can be exploited for identify theft, insurance fraud, stolen prescriptions, and dangerous hoaxes."

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The researchers called on healthcare providers to "up their game" in terms of security defenses for sensitive records, pointing to the high-scale theft of medical records from the Utah Dept. of Health.

Last year criminal hackers from Eastern Europe exposed around 780,000 patient medical records, including social security numbers and other personal information, from a database of Medicaid and Children's Health Plan recipients. The incident, the largest healthcare data breach of 2012, resulted in the firing of the state IT director, according to the report.