Healthcare hacks – how much is your personal information worth?

Last month, I spoke of the predicted rise in 2015 of data breaches, for health care organizations in particular.  Anthem may have been the biggest name, but it certainly hasn’t been alone.  Even as we watch how that plays out, it’s important to recognize just how much cyber attacks have already cost the industry.  Compared to five years ago, a new Ponemon study reveals, the cost to individual hospitals is over $2 million, about double what it once was.  To the industry overall, the cost has ballooned to $6 billion annually.  The prevalence of data breaches caused by intentional criminal activity is now at a 125% increase over that same period, while the past two years have seen at least some level of intrusion for 90% of providers.  For 2014, that totaled around 90 million patients who had their medical records compromised.

Clearly, the inescapable truth is that if you’re in healthcare, you’re almost definitely going to get hacked—regardless of size, since sensitive patient data is easily transmitted.  “While employee negligence and lost/stolen devices continue to be primary causes of data breaches, criminal attacks are now the number one cause,” says Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder of the eponymous institute.

It makes sense, considering how valuable people’s data is, both on the black market, and even based on values customers themselves place on the information.  Another recent Ponemon survey, part of a wider study on privacy and security in the Internet of Things, asked over a thousand consumers from around the world what price they would demand of third parties for access to their data.  Passwords would fetch $75.80; health information and medical records themselves average $59.80; and in third, Social Security numbers at $55.70.  Some of these are the averages between responders different countries, however, American consumers actually placed higher prices on these data than their European counterparts.

Consumers value their privacy, and the protection of their personal information—especially health records, which can paint a fairly substantial picture of someone’s profile, with all the information they contain.  Healthcare providers will need to invest more in keeping their patients’ profiles safe, or costs will only continue to rise dramatically.

By: Jonathan Weicher