Massive Data Breach: Time for Sports Analogies?

August 26, 2014
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File3091346979128In reading an account of the recent attack on Community Health Systems that netted the bad guys File3091346979128In reading an account of the recent attack on Community Health Systems that netted the bad guys 4.5 million patient records and earned CHS a prominent spot on the Wall of Shame, I was struck by the notion put across in the article that all we have to do is work harder to patch vulnerabilities, that with a better defense we can win the game against a skilled quarterback.

I think that we have to come to terms with the notion that privacy is a thing of the past, and that it is not a question of if, but a question of when, any particular system may be hacked. As in the case of the Heartbleed exploit, a back door may be propped open for years before anyone notices, and some exploits may leave no fingerprints.

Speaking of Heartbleed, it now appears that CHS may not have done a thorough job of applying the relevant patches. See: FBI warns healthcare firms they are targeted by hackers | Reuters (the original FBI warning is linked to in the Heartbleed post linked to above.)

What is to be done?

  1. We need to stop using the social security number in medical records and insurance records because, linked with other medical record data, it enables identity theft.
  2. We need to do a better job with authentication of users of systems, so that it becomes harder to use stolen identities to set up new accounts or exploit existing ones.
  3. We need to do a better job of enforcing anti-discrimination laws, because then the release of certain private information will no longer be so devastating.
  4. We need to be honest with ourselves about the limits of privacy and security in the connected world we’ve built, because otherwise we will all continue to live with unrealistic expectations.
  5. We need to have better systems in place to deal with breaches when — not if — they happen, because we aren’t likely to accomplish the first four jobs on this list anytime soon.

What do you think?