GAO warns of widespread ID security breaches

The reports detailing federal data security holes keep rolling in, but somehow, nobody seems to be getting terribly upset about it. In a recent report from the Government Accountability Office, just to site a few upsetting stats, the agency said data breaches have been common of late, with more than 570 breaches being reported in the news media between January 2005 and December 2006. What's more, 17 government agencies reported a total of 788 separate data breaches of government system. It's enough to give a CIO a giant migraine. As if that wasn't enough, the GAO notes it's still not clear to what extent these data breaches result in identity theft.

While some of the breaches fall well outside of the health industry, health data invasions are disturbingly common as well. One recent GAO-mandated AHA survey of 46 hospitals concluded 17 breaches had occurred at 13 of the 46 hospitals since 2003. Three led to fraudulent activity on existing accounts and another three in other forms of ID theft. While all identity theft can do damage, the GAO has previously conceded health identity theft can do perhaps the most long-lasting and harmful damage. Still, the GAO has chosen not to focus its data breach investigations primarily on the health sector of late.

To find out more about the GAO's research:
- read this Modern Healthcare piece

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