Medical images and health data belonging to millions of Americans – including X-rays and CT scans – are not protected online and can be viewed by anyone with basic computer skills, a new report published Tuesday found.
According to ProPublica, who worked in collaboration with German broadcaster Bayerischer Rundfunk in the investigation, the records cover more than 5 million patients in the United States and millions more worldwide. Someone interested in seeing data or private images can use free software programs or a standard web browser to view it.
The news outlet found 187 servers – computers used to store and retrieve medical data ̵1; in the US. not protected by major security measures. These systems are used in doctors' offices, medical imaging centers and mobile X-ray services.
"It didn't hack. It was walking through an open door," Jackie Singh, a cybersecurity researcher and chief executive of consulting firm Spyglass Security, told ProPublica. contact them.
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Presented by U.S. company server MobilexUSA names the over one million patients, all by typing in a simple data query, ProPublica reported. The information seems to include patients' birth dates, doctors and procedures.
MobilexUSA, which captures mobile X-rays and provides imaging services to hospitals, nursing nurses and care agencies, reportedly increased its security last week.
"We immediately mitigated the potential weaknesses identified by ProPublica and immediately initiated an ongoing, thorough investigation," parent company MobilexUSA told ProPublica in a statement.
The investigation found no evidence that patient data was copied from these systems and published elsewhere, but one was warned by the expert that these actions could be destructive.
"Medical records are one of the most important places for privacy because they are so sensitive. Medical knowledge can be used against you in a very harmful way: to embarrass people, to blackmail people person, "Cooper Quintin, a security researcher and senior staff technologist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, told ProPublica.
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There has been an increase in the number of data breaches over the years. In 2015, U.S. health insurer Anthem announced that the private data of 78 million people had been exposed to a hack.
"What we usually see in the healthcare industry is that there is Band-Aid upon Band-Aid" on legacy computer systems, Singh said. "It's 2019. There's no reason for it."