Get Hip to HIPAA: Hackers Want Your Health Data

I have a question for you. What do hackers want more—your Social Security number or your health information?

If you guessed Social Security, you’re wrong. Here’s another fact I learned by writing fiction. The answer is health data, and criminal hackers are busy stealing it every chance they get.

Despite this alarming trend, there is some protection in place for patient privacy. In 1996, the United States legislature passed the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act  known as HIPAA. This act provides for data privacy and security provisions for safeguarding medical information.

The passage of this act was meant to protect patients’ privacy, but it means nothing to a criminal hacker whose day job is stealing your health data. The law has emerged into greater prominence in recent years with the proliferation of health data breaches caused by cyberattacks and ransomware attacks on health insurers and providers.

Hackers can fetch only around $15 a pop on the web for a Social Security number, but a medical record with personal information attached can go for $60 or more. 

Criminals can use health data to create fake identities that allow them to buy and resell medical equipment or drugs, to file fake claims with insurers, or to file fake tax returns. Hackers will use stolen hospital records for extortion—the patient must pay to keep from having their records sold on the dark web.

One reason health data fetches more dollars is that medical identity theft can go undetected for years. The modern practice of electronically storing medical records rather than using paper charts has resulted in a bonanza for criminal hackers. They can sneak in with a few taps on a keyboard, grab the data, and sneak out without being detected.,

How is this possible? One explanation is that medical facilities and private practices tend to put patient care items first when considering expenditures. If the budget is tight, money is not spent to replace aging computer systems, hire IT consultants, and upgrade security infrastructure. These cost-cutting practices make hackers’ work remarkably easy.

Visit these sites for more complete information on this topic:

https://www.dhcs.ca.gov/formsandpubs/laws/hipaa/Pages/1.00WhatisHIPAA.aspx

https://www.healthit.gov/sites/default/files/YourHealthInformationYourRights_Infographic-Web.pdf\

https://www.hhs.gov/hipaa/for-individuals/guidance-materials-for-consumers/index.html

The security of health data is a recurring theme in the hospital-based Aimee Machado Mystery series published by Camel Press, an imprint of Epicenter Press. Available in print and eBook formats from Amazon, Barnes & Noble and by request at your local bookstore. http://camelpress.com/

Want to Get Away with It? Commit Your Crime in International Waters

Welcome to another fact I’ve learned by writing fiction.

This concerns what happens when a beautiful fifteen-year-old girl disappears after attending a yacht  party in the Portuguese Azores Islands. In Spine Damage, book four of the Aimee Machado Mystery series, family connections motivate Aimee to find the missing Azorean girl, but research into crime on the high seas reveals a stark reality. When crimes are committed in international waters, the victims often have no recourse.

A few years ago, Somalian pirates were making international headlines that resulted in Tom Hanks being cast to portray the captain of the hijacked Maersk Alabama—the case on which the movie Captain Phillips was based.

But piracy is just one example of crimes on the high seas. The list is long, and the highly diverse range of criminal activities are often underreported. It includes theft, rape and murder aboard cruise lines and private sailing vessels; drug smuggling and human trafficking; and illegal poaching of marine wildlife. And even today, unsuspecting citizens of poor countries are being shanghaied onto vessels where they’re forced to work under brutal conditions. Those who complain are likely to disappear.

What legal safeguards are in place to protect victims against these crimes?

www.britannica.com states in part:

“. . . maritime countries essentially control their territorial waters from the shore out to a distance of 12 miles . . . Within this zone, all laws of that country apply. With respect to international crimes [beyond the 12-mile limit] . . . any country or international organization can theoretically claim authority over the matter using the concept of universal jurisdiction . . . and try the assailants in their own national (or international) courts. Since the laws of individual countries and international courts are not recognized by all countries, however, there is often no fully accepted referee. Government officials in one country might choose not to recognize the legal authority of another.”

Back to our story . . .

Aimee is distressed by what she learns about crime in international waters, so she and her gang of crime-solvers travel from Timbergate, California to the mid-Atlantic Azores Islands and back seeking clues. Meanwhile, the missing teen’s fate remains unknown. Relentless pursuit of the truth finally uncovers the crime, but is it too little, too late?

For more information on crime in international waters, visit these sites:

https://www.britannica.com/story/are-there-laws-on-the-high-seas

http://mentalfloss.com/article/51708/are-high-seas-criminal-paradise

https://www.nytimes.com/roomfordebate/2015/07/23/sailing-beyond-the-rule-of-law/fight-high-seas-crime-with-accountability-and-commitment-to-prosecute

https://crimereads.com/crime-on-the-high-seas/

Visit www.sharonstgeorge.com again soon for another fact I’ve learned while writing fiction. 

Books in the hospital-based Aimee Machado Mysteries are published by Camel Press (an imprint of Epicenter Press) and are available for purchase in print and eBook format from Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Kobo, and from your local bookstore.

http://camelpress.com

RELEASE DUE FEBRUARY 2019

BOOK FIVE IN THE AIMEE MACHADO MYSTERY SERIES

A young doctor, new to the medical staff of Timbergate Medical Center and eager to make a name for himself, is appointed chairman of Timbergate Medical Center’s Ethics Committee. He comes to Aimee with an urgent request: call the committee together for an emergency meeting. He refuses to state his agenda topic, insisting it’s too sensitive to reveal outside the legal protection of a medical staff committee.

Late that night, the doctor suffers a catastrophic fall down an unlit hospital stairwell, leaving him unable to communicate. The timing troubles Aimee, who suspects foul play as clues from multiple sources begin to add up. When she discovers an outrageous black market scheme that spans the U.S. and beyond, her quest to save innocent lives puts her in mortal danger.

Visit again for further information on pre-ordering this new adventure in the Aimee Machado Mystery Series published by Camel Press. www.camelpress.com