Hackers Want Your Health Information

A look at the next big data breach that will affect you

Healthcare is on the brink of major technological transformation.

Every facet of the industry will benefit greatly from the convenience, transparency and intelligence that rapidly advancing technology offers. And these benefits will do more than simply save time and money. They will save lives. It doesn’t get much more important than that.

BUT with great technology comes great responsibility–especially in the form of privacy protection. All the data being created, stored and used to improve healthcare MUST be handled responsibly. Because a breach in data security–particularly if that data includes PHI (protected health information)–can have significant repercussions.

PHI is especially appetizing for hackers. Why? Because it’s all the things. Compare PHI to credit card information, for example. If a hacker gets access to your credit card info, he/she can go on a shopping spree and enjoy a quick payout, but that fun is short-lived, since that account will soon enough be cancelled once the victim realizes what’s happened.

PHI, on the other hand, includes:

  • Phone or fax numbers;
  • Social Security numbers;
  • Medical records;
  • Health insurance numbers; and
  • Biometric identifiers, such as fingerprints and retinal and facial patterns

Hackers can find value in these kinds of information in all sorts of ways. We’re talkin’:

  • Extortion– Criminals demand money from individuals or healthcare organizations to prevent exposing private medical information.
  • Fraud- Criminals use a valid health insurance card to obtain healthcare services or purchase medical equipment/pharmaceuticals that can be resold at a profit.
  • Identity theft– Criminals use a valid Social Security number to open lines of credit or create fake IDs.
  • Data laundering– Criminals sell stolen data back to legitimate businesses or repackage insurance claims data.

These are all big scary things, and unfortunately they are happening more frequently as more data is being created and stored. And when I say “more data,” I mean way more. To put it into perspective, more data was created in the last two years than the previous 5,000 years of humanity. And in 2017, we will top that in one year alone.


Healthcare data is particularly at risk, not only because of the high quality and profitability of the information, but also because, as an industry, healthcare is significantly behind the times in terms of cyber security.

As technology inevitably transforms this industry, the winners will be those who build and use trusted products that not only make patient care more convenient and transparent, but also more secure.

To give you an idea of the damage that breaches in healthcare have already caused, here’s some stats gathered by the Ponemon Institute:

  • Data breaches have likely already cost the healthcare industry $6.2 billion.
  • Organizations are less likely to encrypt health-related information than any other kind of information. Only 21% of health-related information is encrypted.
  • Ponemon estimates that the average cost of a data breach for healthcare organizations over the past two years was more than $2.2 million- with the costs to business associations (businesses who do work for healthcare organizations, such as tax agencies) was more than $1 million.
  • The top stolen healthcare files are: medical files, billing records, insurance records, and payment details. These types of information leave patients at risk for exposing personal details as well as for financial identity theft.

So what’s your point, Katlyn?

Well, first off, I wanna scare the bejeezus out of all of you because this is a big problem for all of us. We’re all patients at some point, and as such, we need to be aware and diligent about our health information because it’s our butts on the line.

Also, for you doctors, healthcare professionals and founders out there building the next piece of health technology, protecting healthcare data has got to be a priority. As technology inevitably transforms this industry, the winners will be those who build and use trusted products that not only make patient care more convenient and transparent, but also more secure.

Here at Better Practices, we understand that it’s time for significant improvements in healthcare communication practices, and that those improvements must be paired with top-notch security. In fact, we have our own technology over at Rhinogram that’s doing just that.