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Hackers Take Aim At U.S. Health Care Institutions

From minor illnesses to major surgeries, for North Carolinians who are in need of medical care, their focus is on obtaining the diagnosises, treatment and after-care they need to recover and feel better. Today, however, health care consumers must also be vigilant about how their health care providers gather, store and protect their personal information.

While the increased use of technologies like Electronic Health Records has improved many aspects of health care, it has also opened hospitals and other health care institutions up to the very real dangers of cyber attacks.

Cyber Attacks Increasing

In recent years, hackers have carried out cyber attacks on governmental agencies, banks, insurance companies and retail stores and there is seemingly no industry or entity that is safe or immune to these attacks. While there has been a proliferation in development and use of cyber security systems and laws passed mandating their use, many industries and institutions continue to lag behind when it comes to cyber security efforts; which can have devastating results for consumers.

The Health Care Sector Is Vulnerable

Cyber security experts and analysts have identified the health care sector as being especially vulnerable to cyber attacks. This is due in large part to the treasure trove of personal and even financial data that can quickly be obtained in hacks involving patients' medical and payment records including names, birth dates, Social Security numbers and credit card and bank account numbers.

Per the 2009 Health Information Technology for Economic and Clinical Health Act, data breaches at health care institutions that include records of more than 500 patients are required to be published on a website maintained by The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights. To date, the list includes more than 1,730 health care providers and institutions and encompasses the individual medical records of millions of health care consumers.

If Your Medical Records Are Breached

To the average consumer, the theft of personal identifying information can have serious and far-reaching consequences and cause those impacted to suffer significant financial and personal losses. If your medical records are compromised and stolen as the result of a cyber attack on your health care provider or institution, you would be wise to reach out to an attorney who can represent your best interests and advocate on your behalf.

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