Billions of dollars are stolen from the American elderly every year, and nursing home residents are at particularly high risk. In the wake of so many online data breaches, many are wondering who is most at risk of such attacks and how to be better protected. Nursing home negligence lawyers at Pintas & Mullins highlight just how vulnerable nursing home residents are for cyber hacks.
A recent article in the Wall Street Journal details a group of computer-security researchers who discovered sensitive nursing home documents that could be easily accessed by hackers. The cybersecurity researchers discovered this by mining a website commonly used by hackers.
The site, 4shared.com, includes a network of electronic medical records and healthcare payment data from. Several specific nursing homes were identified in the article, all of which are located in New York. 4shared.com is a file-sharing site facilities can use when acquiring new software or transferring records to a new system.
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One of the nursing homes with data on the site told the WSJ that the documents were from 2007, when the facility installed new medical-records software. A spokesperson for the nursing home stated that it had no idea its information was online and it had not been contacted regarding any type of data breach.
Another nursing home with information on the site stated that it was contacted about a security breach in 2012, and quickly switched security providers. Among the data on the website included wireless access points inside residents’ rooms, blueprints of facilities, and encryption keys, usernames and passwords for whole nursing home networks.
How At-Risk are American Nursing Homes?
It is getting increasingly difficult to keep healthcare records secure due to the prevalence of online medical records and billing systems. Many types of medical equipment use the internet to service and update software.
If a cyber-hacker is able to access an administrator’s passwords, they can gain also access the network of healthcare records and install software to capture medical record passwords. Information from about 375 American healthcare facilities is currently on 2shared.com, including hospitals, pharmaceutical companies, doctors’ offices, and health plan managers.
Experts assert that the security plans at many healthcare facilities are inadequate and largely unable to keep up with the number of attacks occurring throughout the country. Cybersecurity is a relatively new field that needs more attention and commitment to advancement.
Recent federal mandates require that medical data privacy be strictly controlled because they know healthcare records are extraordinarily sensitive.
According to the WSJ article stolen medical records typically sell for about $60 apiece. Credit cards go for around $20. Healthcare records are more valuable because more fraud can be committed with that information, like messing with Medicare and prescription accounts.
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Our team of nursing home negligence lawyers encourages those with loved ones in nursing homes to stay on top of their records. Any suspicious activity should be reported to nursing home or hospital administrators right away. Our nation’s elderly have enough to worry about without the added threat of online hackers.
Unfortunately, financial scammers are still doing work the old-fashioned way as well, cheating seniors out of money through telephone calls and even in-person. Do not let your loved one be the next victim. If your loved one was otherwise injured or hospitalized due to negligence or abuse at a nursing home, contact our firm today. Our case reviews and legal consultations are completely free, and available to families throughout the country.