Verizon’s 2015 Data Security Report Reveals How Data Breaches Have Affected the Healthcare Industry

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In its latest annual digital security report, Verizon found some interesting — albeit somewhat scary — connections between large-scale data breaches in 2014 and simple mistakes that could have been prevented, specifically pertaining to commercial POS systems and digital storage devices.

The 2015 Data Breach Investigations Report found that, throughout 2014, nearly 80,000 security “incidents” and over 2,000 confirmed security breaches occurred in 61 countries across the world.

Although NBC News reports that the healthcare industry wasn’t one of the top five industries that experienced the largest number of security threats during 2014, it is still notable that the most common reasons for security breaches are consistant across the board.

Specifically, Verizon’s report found that traditional phishing strategies, like fake emails with corrupted attachments, are becoming even more popular than before and are responsible for about 29% of all data breaches. These scams are often exacerbated by misconfigured computer systems, which reportedly played a role in about 60% of all breaches last year.

Human errors are also largely to blame, since conventional phishing does not allow a hacker to infiltrate a computer system alone. The security breach is successful when someone clicks on an infected email attachment, unknowingly downloading a virus which gives the hacker access to computer files.

Although these factors seem most evident in personal computer systems and retail store systems, they also factor into security of digital medical records, too.

According to the latest reports from Sci-Tech Today, data breaches and security threats have resulted in more than 30 million stolen health records over the past four years. For consumers, this is troubling news. Unlike credit card numbers and bank accounts, personal health information can’t be closed out and replaced with another new set of health records.

But it would be remiss to ignore the fact that many businesses within the healthcare industry are harmed just as much when a security threat is found. Recent data doesn’t just prove that security threats are on the rise — researchers have found that the cost of these data breaches has been rising as well. Between 2013 and 2014 alone, the cost of a single data breach in the healthcare industry rose by 9%, meaning that businesses pay, on average, $145 per stolen record after a data leak or breach.

The bad news, it appears, is that it’s getting more difficult for companies to regulate sensitive data, especially because we now rely so heavily on digital storage space. But the good news is that security threats can be detected early and blocked effectively, so long as users are careful and conscious.

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