- The Washington Times - Thursday, December 24, 2015

Hackers managed to compromise more than 100 million health care records in 2015, making this year the worst on record for the industry with respect to cybersecurity, new government data suggests.

In addition to the major Anthem breach in March that affected nearly 80 million customers of the health care insurer, new numbers put out by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services indicate that incidents suffered by Premera Blue Cross, Excellus Health Plan and others this calendar year put the total number of individuals impacted by industry-related cyber breaches at over 100 million.

Not only did eight of the 10 largest hacks aimed directly at the health care industry occur during 2015, the Financial Times reported first this week, but the number of records compromised now amounts to nearly 100 times more than in any previous year.

“The [Anthem] breach has raised awareness,” Bryan Palma, senior vice-president of Cisco’s Advanced Services in cybersecurity, told the Financial Times. “The health care industry is saying, ‘This is real now. There is precedent in our industry.’ They are late to the party, but at least they are there now.”

Warnings aside, analysts have predicted that 2016 could be the worst year yet with regards to health-related cyberattacks. IDC’s Health Insights group stated in a recent report that one in three health care customers will likely have their data compromised within the next 12 months.

“Frankly, health care data is really valuable from a cyber criminal standpoint. It could be 5, 10 or even 50 times more valuable than other forms of data,” Lynne Dunbrack, the research vice president for IDC’s Health Insights, told Computerworld after her firm released their findings earlier this month. Indeed, the FBI has estimated that health fraud costs the industry between $74 billion and $247 billion annually. 

Researchers at Experian separately concluded recently that the health care sector has been hit with more major cyberattacks during the last decade than either the education, government, retail or financial industries.

• Andrew Blake can be reached at ablake@washingtontimes.com.

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