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Why Are Health Data Leaking Online? Bad Software, Study Says

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A recent Dartmouth College study found that sensitive health care data is being leaked online through peer-to-peer (P2P) file-sharing services. During a two-week period in 2009, the researchers were able to use P2P services to find more than 200 files that contained Social Security numbers, insurance numbers, names, addresses, and dates of birth. In addition, the researchers found that many people were using P2P services to find sensitive documents. During their study, the researchers tracked people using search terms such as "public health passwords" and "Columbia Center for AIDS Research."

M. Eric Johnson, the director of Dartmouth's Center for Digital Strategies, says the searches may have been used to find information for corporate espionage, or to find numbers that could be used to commit fraud. Johnson says the biggest culprit for data leakage is hard-to-use software. He says poorly designed programs force health care industry employees to download files onto their home computers, where they are often forgotten.

Johnson says that switching to cloud computing technology would make it possible for smaller businesses to have access to software that is easier to use. However, he notes that cloud computing also opens data up to other threats, including large-scale hackers.

From The Wall Street Journal
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Abstracts Copyright © 2011 Information Inc., Bethesda, Maryland, USA


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