One future for healthcare records shows each person with their medical records dangling from their key ring on a tiny USB stick. Or worse, everyone’s records kept in a giant database accessible through the Internet.
Gary Warner, Director of Research in Computer Forensics at the University of Alabama Birmingham, shudders at the thought. “I clearly believe that I should own my own healthcare records,” he starts out saying. “Except who will protect me from someone else giving it all away?”
Ten thousand people a day give away their banking password, reports Warner, yet everyone understands the need to protect their money at some level. “It’s not a comfort to me that access to a database of all our healthcare records will be given to these same people.”
The Internet is now a prime source for theft of more than identities. One hacking group stole $70 million from bank accounts in one “heist”. “That’s ten times more than physical robberies totaled in the entire second quarter nationwide,” Warner says.
Healthcare record theft offers two other opportunities to thieves beyond identity and credit card information. Blackmail can be a lucrative outsource of robbing a hospital’s computer system or a future healthcare mega-database. Politicians and others could be ruined by the exposure of some frailties.
And the uninsured are already another profitable market for the selling of healthcare information, Warner says. “How can an uninsured person, get medical treatment? Steal the identity and healthcare information of someone who has it.”
He says hackers steal so many identities that they have no trouble matching a black-market purchaser’s age, race and physical characteristics to a buyer. “They’re selling to immigrants in border states now, like Texas and Arizona. Healthcare theft there is the leading form of identity theft. It’s not really reached across the country, but it will. It’s a trend of the future.”