Is Your Health In The Hands Of A Hacker?

id_theft_victimMost people are aware of the risk of cyber attacks on smartphones, computers, and business servers, but did you know that medical devices are also at risk?

Anything that can connect to the Internet can potentially be hacked. Medical identity theft and medical device hacking are serious problems.

Is your health in the hands of a hacker?

Recent Attacks on Medical Data and Medical Devices

There has been a rise in the number of medical data breaches in the past couple of years. You probably remember the Affordable Care Act’s website getting hacked as well as the major data breach at Community Health Systems.

These were not isolated cases. Many people have become the victims of medical identity theft.

Beside medical data breaches, medical devices can be targeted specifically. For instance, medical alert bracelets, pace makers, and insulin pumps are all vulnerable to security breaches.

Any device that can access the Internet or that works electronically can be hacked. You can imagine the serious implications of this, including death.  For more statistics medical ID theft just read this.

What Medical Device Hackers and Medical Identity Thieves Can Do

Medical device and medical data breeches are more dangerous than other types of cyber-attacks because more is at risk than your personal information.

Medical device breeches are potentially life threatening because they can interfere with critical health care services.

Here is a sample of things hackers can do:

  • They can alter your prescription drugs or change the name of the person who needs the drug to obtain prescription drugs illegally.
  • They can delay the shipping of critical medical supplies to your home.
  • They can contact your insurance and cause you to incur large medical bills.
  • They can gain access to your personal information and steal your identity, racking up thousands of dollars of debt in your name.
  • They can mix your medical information with others, causing you to get improper care, including serious things such as surgeries or the wrong blood infusions, etc.
  • They can make your medical devices stop working.

The FDA Set Guidelines to Prevent Medical Device Breaches

Because medical device hacking and medical identity theft are on the rise, the FDA recently published guidelines for medical device manufacturers to help prevent cyber-attacks.

Suzanne Schwartz, Director of Emergency Preparedness at the FDA’s Center for Devices and Radiological Health said, “There is no such thing as a threat-proof medical device . . . It is important for medical device manufacturers to remain vigilant about cyber security and to appropriately protect patients from those risks.”

How to Protect Yourself From Medical Identity Theft

Medical device manufacturers cannot protect you completely. This means you must take certain measures to ensure your medical identity is not stolen and your medical devices and information remain secure.

Here is a list of ways to protect yourself:

  • Shred all documents with personal information, such as old medical records and bills. It’s bad enough that hackers can sometimes access your information electronically, but you don’t want to make it even easier for them with a paper trail.
  • Try not to give out your social security number. It is the biggest thing hackers use to steal your identity. In most cases, you don’t need to disclose your social security number unless you are being asked to pay an overdue medical bill.
  • Carefully comb through your “Explanation of Benefits” to make sure that all of the things your health insurer is billing you for were actually incurred by you. Don’t make the mistake of jumping to the bottom of the page to see if you owe anything because bills can add up quickly if you’re not paying attention. You might be paying for someone else’s health care.
  • Check your medical records often to make sure they are accurate. Hackers can alter anything.
  • Don’t give any personal medical information over the phone. Sometimes medical identity thieves pose as insurance company representative or hospital staff to try and get key information to access your medical files.

Final Thoughts…

Medical identity theft and medical device breeches are scary. You need to be aware of the problem and take measures to protect yourself.

Have you ever been a victim of medical identity theft?  Feel free to share your thoughts and comments below.

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