Recently I've received a number of 'I am writing to inform you that we were the target of a sophisticated cyber attack and some of your personal information may have been accessed by the attackers..' letters for myself and my family. I especially hate the ones that start, 'To the parents of...' because my daughter has a rare genetic condition. You probably got one of these letters too since the Anthem breach could have disclosed medical records for as many as 80 million people.
Medical identity theft is big business and has become a huge target over the last few years. The attackers are not really interested in that sprained ankle or those 25 stitches from last summer. They want the personally identifiable information. Names, addresses, birthdays, and social security numbers. Stuff you can actually use to open accounts, commit insurance fraud and create fake identities - using real information. Healthcare info also goes for a premium on black market sites. One expert noted that recently that at one underground auction, a patient medical record sold for $251 while credit cards are selling at .33 cents. With all the recent retail breaches, credit cards have flooded the underground, plus they can get cancelled quickly. I also know that fraudsters are already trying to entice people with fake emails and calls regarding the breaches - I've gotten a bunch of them recently. More than ever, do not click the email link unless you're expecting something.
The interesting phenomenon for me is all the identity theft protection offerings from various credit bureaus. One breach, sign up here...another breach, sign up there. It is important to take advantage of the services to stay alert on your identity but you also have to include the very same sensitive info that was just compromised to yet another entity. I'm waiting on the breach of one of these identity protection sites. I mean the thieves must be thinking, 'well, we missed them in the medical grab but maybe we can get them through the protection app.'
According to Ponemon Institute, about 90% of healthcare organizations have reported at least one data breach over the last two years with most due to employee negligence or system flaws but more, as we've seen recently, are due to criminal behavior. Certainly, there will be more of these healthcare hiccups in the coming years especially with the push to digitize medical records. Great for patient access but a huge risk for unauthorized peeks. With the Premera breach hot on Anthem's heels, I hope providers are getting the message that the bad guys are coming for ya.