Hackers, peer-to-peer networks, human error all threaten health data security

The great thing about the Internet is that it's global. The bad thing about the Internet is that it's global. Just ask Dr. John Halamka, CIO of CareGroup Health System in Boston.

"I spend about $1 million a year just protecting the Beth Israel Deaconess [hospital] records against the nefarious Internet. We're attacked every seven seconds, 24 hours a day, seven days a week," Halamka says in an interview with Bio-IT World. "Half of the attacks come from Eastern Europe; half of the attacks come from Eastern Cambridge [Mass.]. Every September, 1,200 new hackers arrive--they're called freshmen!"

But hackers and freshmen may not be the only nefarious elements out there. A study at the Tuck School of Business at Dartmouth College found thousands of documents with patient-specific data floating around on peer-to-peer networks that let people share files. At least one document they found was from an AIDS clinic, Computerworld reports.

Well-meaning people also can inadvertently leak health data. Attendees at a healthcare CIO symposium at Massachusetts Institute of Technology last week heard how human error frequently is to blame for data breaches. Think stolen laptops, lost USB drives and computers left logged into.

For more on data breaches:
- read this Bio-IT World interview with Halamka
- see this Computerworld report on file-sharing networks
- check out this InformationWeek story on human error
- take a look at this NextGov piece on security lapses at the VA

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