HHS: Laptop theft is No. 1 source of health data breaches

Here's another reminder: Secure your laptop computers.

HHS officials last week confirmed what many people have long suspected: Laptop theft is the most common source of health data breaches affecting at least 500 people. Of the 189 breaches reported to HHS since notification became mandatory last year, 52 percent were due to theft, Adam Greene, senior health IT and privacy specialist in the HHS Office for Civil Rights, said Wednesday at the mHealth Summit, Government Health IT reports. Another 20 percent of breaches were the result of unauthorized access or disclosure of protected health information, and 16 percent were because of loss.

Laptop theft accounted for 24 percent of all breaches--more than any other specific source--while the theft of paper records was the reason for 22 percent of reported breaches affecting a minimum of 500 people, Greene said. Breaches stemmed from desktop computers 16 percent of the time and other portable devices such as smartphones were involved in 14 percent of cases.

Greene offered the same advice security experts have long been saying: "encrypt, encrypt, and encrypt." He explained, "The information remains protected to a significant degree [on encrypted devices]."

According to Greene, medical identity theft can have more than just financial consequences. "There's someone else receiving medical services under your profile, and you may have the wrong blood type listed in your medical records, and the potential result of that could be fatal," he said.

For more:
- read this Government Health IT story