Identity theft is becoming more and more of a problem in this country. It seems that each new month brings word of another huge breach of security. The most serious of these recent breeches is the attack that was made on the Anthem information data bases. Anthem is a company in the health insurance industry connected with American Blue Cross Blue Shield coverage. This is a breech that you need to be paying attention to as it is a shining example of the risks involved with the Information Age that is changing data storage in the health care system.
Personal Information was Lost
When companies like Target and Home Depot are affected by similar security breaches, the main risk is credit card theft. While this is dangerous and can lead to many fraudulent purchases, it can also be easily contained. If you are affected by such a theft, the charges can be reversed, and your credit card number can be changed. These two steps can stop the damage from continuing, and are both very easy to accomplish.
The same cannot be said for your personal information. While Anthem tried to comfort its clients by saying their breech did not release credit card numbers to the hackers, the fact that so much personal information was leaked was a major problem for victims of the breech. The following is a list of some of the things the hackers learned about the victims of this security fiasco:
- Social Security numbers
- E-mail addresses
- Employment information
- Educational information
Hackers may not have direct access to credit cards, but with this sensitive client information, nothing is stopping them from taking on new credit cards in your name. This information can build up a nice way for thieves to live well on your name and credit.
USA Today quoted Anne Patterson, the program director for the Medical Identity Fraud Alliance, who said that this breech of personal information is far more serious, and that health industries have much more to fear from such hacks than other commercial industries. She stated, “You really can’t change your birth date. So when that kind of information is out there, the type of fraud that is perpetrated in the health care sense involves your well-being, your life.”
More Than Just Direct Clients are Affected
One of the most frustrating aspects about the Anthem hack is that it was not just the direct clients of Anthem that were affected by the breech. Many people thought they were safe from this situation only to learn later that because their information had been stored by Anthem, they were also included in the list of victims from the attack.
Not only was this a shock to those who had no dealings with Anthem and were still at risk, but it shone a light on the fact that nobody is ever really certain who has what information about them. The uncertainty of whether or not your information is truly safe is high.
Michael Hiltzik of the LA Times commented on this fact saying, “Until now, you probably have had no idea of how much of your personal data is held in the systems of companies with which you may not even know you had a relationship, like Anthem. They suck up the data like a turbo-charged Hoover, even though they can have no possible need for it.”
Nobody is Being Held Accountable
While Anthem is offering 24 months of credit monitoring to those victims who are proactive enough to take them up on the offer, many feel that the company is not doing enough. In the end, their limited amount of help to clear things up will do little to protect victims from the hackers’ further and future use of the information. This is likely to be a problem far beyond the 24 months of help offered.
If you have been put at risk by this or other breeches, then you will have to take on the monitoring of your credit and information by yourself. The vigilance of future damage with the stolen information really must come from you as no breeched agencies are really being held accountable in any quantifiable way. Many are calling their meager attempts to help as little more than PR moves to cover up their lax security measures with your vital information.
What Could Have Prevented the Hack
Companies that hoard and store information of this sort really should have more protective systems in place. Document Management Software (DMS) programs can offer some extensive security options. These programs will offer encryption on the stored information (something that was notably lacking from the data storage option at Anthem) so that it will be of little use to hackers.
DMS programs will also have built-in compliance and security features that will verify when strange patterns arise in data usage and uploading, so potential breeches can be stopped in their tracks. Essentially, these programs are made to track data usage, and to eliminate many of the human error elements that have caused some of the recent information theft situations.