Why Hackers Are So Obsessed With Your Medical Records

Photographed by Jessica Nash
John Kuhn, senior threat researcher at IBM, had a routine visit to a hospital in Michigan turn into a $20,000 bill for surgery that he didn't actually have or need, reports Fast Company. While he eventually was able to prove he hadn't had the surgery he was billed for, he had to prove that he didn't undergo surgery by pulling up his shirt and showing he didn't have any scars.
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Kuhn's case might seem bizarre, but he's hardly the first person to deal with this. Over 113 million health and medical records were hacked last year, according to data compiled by the Health and Human Services. An even scarier stat from the Institute for Critical Infrastructure Technology? They found that 47% of Americans have had their medical record hacked in the past 12 months.
But why? What is the interest in your sprained ankle and Pap smear?
On the dark web (a part of the internet that is deliberately not searchable), Fast Company reports there is a strong market for records that typically contain an individual's name, birthdate, Social Security number, and medical information — all of which can be found in medical records. According to Fast Company, that info can sell for $60 per person, with Social Security numbers going for much less. Stolen credit card numbers sell for mere dollars, so it's not surprising that medical records, which contain information you willingly give your doctor's office, are so valuable.
What can you do to protect your information? Limit the amount you share, even with people you might trust, like your doctor. Don't file any sensitive information — like your Social Security number, address, or bank info — via email. And always ask if you must share your Social Security number. Don't take your digital security for granted.
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