Medical images and health data of millions of Americans – including X-ray and CT scans – are unprotected online and can be viewed by anyone with basic computer literacy, as a shocking new report released on Tuesday revealed.
According to ProPublica, who collaborated on the investigation with Bayerischer Rundfunk, the records included over 5 million patients in the US and millions more worldwide. Someone interested in seeing data or private images could even use free software programs or a standard web browser to display them.
The news agency found 187 server computers in the US that stored and retrieved medical information unprotected by basic security measures. These systems have been used in medical practices, medical imaging centers and mobile X-ray services.
"It's not even hacking. It's an open door, "said Jackie Singh, a cybersecurity researcher and managing director of consulting firm Spyglass Security, to ProPublica.
According to the report, some of the medical providers began contacting their systems after the media organization closed.
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The server of the US company MobilexUSA displayed the names of over one million patients, all by entering a simple data query, ProPublica reported. The information apparently included birth dates, doctors and patient intervention.
MobilexUSA, which provides mobile X-rays and imaging services for hospitals, nursing homes and hospice agencies, has reportedly increased safety over the past week.
"We immediately mitigated the potential vulnerabilities identified by ProPublica and immediately initiated an ongoing, in-depth investigation. "The parent of MobilexUSA informed ProPublica in a statement with experts warning that such actions could be devastating.
"Medical records are one of the most important areas for privacy because they are so sensitive. Medical knowledge can be maliciously used against you: to embarrass people, to blackmail people, "said Cooper Quintin, a security researcher and senior technologist at the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a digital rights group, opposite ProPublica.
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In In recent years there has been an increasing number of data breaches. In 2015, the US health insurer Anthem announced that the private data of 78 million people were uncovered in a hack.
"What we normally see in the healthcare industry is that Band-Aid is being applied to Band-Aid's legacy computer systems," Singh said. "It's 2019. There's no reason for that."