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HealthCare.gov Breach: The Ripple Effect

Hackers breached a HealthCare.gov test server, reportedly affecting no records, but the repercussions could spread across many medical organizations.

Thursday's disclosure that hackers breached a HealthCare.gov test server this summer sparked more concern about the overall vulnerability of healthcare organizations and hope that the growing number of publicly disclosed hacks will encourage those organizations to expend more resources on securing data, networks, and systems.

A hacker installed malicious code on a device that had kept its default manufacturer's password. As a test server, it was not supposed to be hooked to the Internet, said Patrick Peterson, founder and CEO of security developer Agari in an interview. Either keeping the server unconnected or using tools that automatically change pre-set passwords would have prevented this vulnerability, he said. Because it shared the breach, HealthCare.gov should be lauded for its transparency, said Peterson.

[ What Comes First: Core Modernization or Innovation?. ]

This type of error is easily preventable, but is the kind of mistake that can occur at most organizations without proper training and IT management, said Ashley Leonard, president and CEO of Verismic Software:

I am sure it is unnerving for the public when our government's own systems get compromised by hacking. This, on top of the recent celebrity hacking, creates a distrust in cloud. However, if you look more closely at what has actually happened, systems are being penetrated by a combination of bad IT management and poor end-user training. I believe IT managers and software vendors need a better way to share information on vulnerabilities and how to patch them. The second concern is passwords; though passwords are set to protect our most sensitive data, we have a real issue today of using technology much older than most of us. At the very least we should be moving to pass phrases, two-factor authentication, or biometrics to protect our data.

Although federal officials were quick to reassure the public that no personal, financial, or health data was stolen, a chorus of dissent arose immediately given the amount of information HealthCare.gov houses and the number of alarms raised about the site's security weaknesses.

Read the rest of this article on InformationWeek.

Alison Diana has written about technology and business for more than 20 years. She was editor, contributors, at Internet Evolution; editor-in-chief of 21st Century IT; and managing editor, sections, at CRN. She has also written for eWeek, Baseline Magazine, Redmond Channel ... View Full Bio

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