P2P networks rife with sensitive health care data, researcher warns

Jaikumar Vijayan reports on the issue of p2p exposures compromising the security and privacy of health data:

Eric Johnson didn’t have to break into a computer to gain access to a 1,718-page document containing Social Security numbers, dates of birth, insurance information, treatment codes and other health care data belonging to about 9,000 patients at a medical testing laboratory.

Nor did he need to ransack a health care facility to lay his hands on more than 350MB of sensitive patient data for a group of anesthesiologists or to get a spreadsheet with 82 fields of information on more than 20,000 patients belonging to a health system.

In all instances, Johnson was able to find and freely download the sensitive data from a peer-to-peer file-sharing network using some basic search terms.

Johnson, a professor of operations management at the Dartmouth College Tuck School of Business, did the searches last year as part of a study looking at the inadvertent hemorrhaging of sensitive health care data on Internet file-sharing networks.

The results of that study, which are scheduled to be published in the next few days, show that data leaks over P2P networks involving the health care sector pose a significant threat to patients, providers and payers, Johnson said.

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