Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Hackers Gain Access To Anthem Database

2/6/15 - Over the past year, several major retailers, including Target, Home Depot, and Michael's have been victim to the cyber-attacks of hackers. The most recent target on a lengthy list of such data breaches was Anthem Blue Cross, a major health insurance provider. Chad Terhune discusses the consequences of this hack in his article in the Los Angeles Times.

While Anthem states that hackers did not gain access to credit card information and health records, they were able to access much more. From name to date of birth to Social Security number, it appears that these hackers now know most of the personal information belonging to up to 80 million individuals who have health insurance through Blue Cross.

The sheer amount of personal information gathered by the hackers is enough to be quite certain that identity theft is a likely outcome. The personal information could be used by the hackers or others to open new lines of credit, or possibly even to access and empty existing accounts. Anthem warns any who have had coverage in the past and any who are currently covered by Blue Cross to keep a watchful eye on their financial accounts, in case identity theft is the main goal of these hackers.

One of the more upsetting parts of this situation for many is the fact that the stolen information wasn't even encrypted. It's bad enough that the databases got broken into, but a lack of encryption on the stored information means that cyber-criminals have easy access to the data within those databases. In fact, Anthem was even forced to pay a fine of $1.7 million in connection to allegations by the federal government that a weakness in their security left clients' personal information open to attack. Why hasn't Anthem learned its lesson?

Anthem, along with many other companies, need to develop better safeguards and protection mechanisms to make sure that only authorized parties are able to access personal information. For a company as large as Anthem to have left data unprotected multiple times in less than two years is just irresponsible. Sure, there are hackers that can make their way past any defenses, but better protections will at least slow them down, maybe even enough to stop some of them altogether.

This is a crucial time for Anthem, due to the thousands of people trying to enroll in coverage under the Affordable Care Act. They will have to be very careful dealing with this issue, in order to convince their clients not to look elsewhere for a health insurance provider. While Anthem has dealt with the attack through the proper channels, by contacting the FBI immediately, most people would still be more comfortable trusting the large company with their information if Anthem underwent a massive overhaul of their security systems. Such a project could prevent future breaches and make all involved parties much happier.

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