A medical data breach could be a valid concern should the Apple corporation fold to FBI pressure and allow the governmental agency access to its operating systems. Apple has so far refused to grant the FBI’s request to obtain the mobile phone data of Apple users.
The debate on whether governments should have access to citizens’ mobile phone data has been centered on the sensitive nature of the data that would be acquired. Concerns have been voiced particularly in regards to sensitive personal and financial information that could be breached. However, medical data breaches could also represent a serious threat should Apple allow the government to view its customers’ mobile phone data.
Most patients, doctors, and healthcare providers are using mobile phones and synchronized medical devices to store, transmit, and access healthcare information nowadays. Smartphone security has become an important aspect of patient data security because of that fact. The fact that the transfer of medical data is frequently performed by using smart devices such as smartphones puts the Apple-FBI debate into new perspective. Providing governments with access to this data could lead to medical data breaches.
How Are Patient Medical Records Protected?
A medical data breach can lead to serious consequences. Previous such breaches have already led to financial loss, identity theft, employment and civil rights discrimination, and patient safety risks. Healthcare data is protected by the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), which specifically states that all patient data must be encrypted. Hospitals, doctors, or companies violating this act are subject to fines. Breaches can also add up to significant financial liabilities.
It is not uncommon for healthcare providers and hospitals to report a medical data breach. Last year over 100 billion medical records were stolen according to a report issued by Health IT Security. Most of these breaches were the result of malicious hacking. Most of these breaches either involved or targeted electronic medical records, which can sell for more than 20 times the value of stolen credit card information.
Most hospitals nowadays have created web portals and smart phone apps that can be used to access their medical records systems. These portals and apps can be used by patients and doctors in order to access patient files via their smartphones. This has caused smartphones to become the most recent weakest link in the fight to protect personal health information.
Is the Security Infringement of Data a Valid Concern?
Health records contain critical and sensitive personal information such as financial details, social security numbers, medical diagnoses, medical test results, and prescribed dosages for potentially hazardous drugs. Apple’s firm security stand has been justified by the company’s representatives by citing the possibility of security infringement of customers’ data.
Creating a backdoor into iPhone smartphones could lead to cases of medical data breach. The FBI’s demand for access to personal data stored in iPhones was justified by the agency’s need to identify possible terrorist threats and to prevent crime, but creating a backdoor into the iOS could also make users’ personal data more susceptible to security infringement.
An increased risk of a medical data breach should be considered a valid concern in the Apple-FBI debate. Cryptography experts have already disproved the argument that the government access to this data would increase security. In fact, according to University of Cambridge professor Ross Anderson, the Government’s proposals for exceptional access to data would increase insecurity and are both wrong in principle and unworkable in practice.
The current Apple-FBI debate has broad implications or health data. It is a matter of public safety and protecting citizens’ private information. Allowing governmental agencies access to phone data and increasing insecurity on smartphones would set a potentially risky precedent for other devices that could be used to manage healthcare data.
Is Apple’s Firm Security Stand Justified?
Apple isn’t the only company that has been asked to offer government agencies access to consumer data. Considering the valid security concerns that have been raised regarding the issue, it is understandable that companies such as Apple would be hesitant to create backdoors into their operating systems. Because of the many data security risks that would come with granting governmental agencies access to smartphone data, companies such as Apple, Google, or Facebook should reject government demands that would compromise security.
Personal patient files contain sensitive details and require security measures such as data encryption. It is important to protect patients’ medical information from security breaches. Hospitals and healthcare provided have reported cases in which medical data breach has led to severe consequences for patients whose data had been stolen or exposed.
Medical records are more valuable than other personal details are because they contain very sensitive information. This is why medical data security should be an important focus point in the current Apple-FBI mobile phone data access debate. If medical records are at risk of security infringement because of Government access to mobile phone data, it might be unwise for companies such as Apple to allow governmental agencies to view it.
What Are the Consequences of Medical Data Breaches?
The main concern regarding stolen electronic medical records is that sensitive personal information contained in patient files can be used for criminal activities. But these security threats go beyond stolen credit card details and other financial information. Although the issues that are most commonly associated with stolen personal details are identity theft and financial loss, other serious problems may be caused by a medical data breach.
Medical devices that are connected to the internet can also become exposed to hacking. If these devices are compromised, they can be used to disrupt the workings of vital medical equipment such as a heart pacemaker or a drug infusion pump. There have been reported cases of internet-connected drug infusion pumps that were compromised because of security breaches. This poses a serious risk to patient safety, as drug infusion pumps are used to deliver precise amounts of hazardous drugs and disrupting their workings could lead to potentially fatal incidents.
With digital medical records and internet-connected medical devices at risk, it is easy to understand why a potential medical data breach could have negative consequences. If granting the FBI access to smartphone data increases these security risks, Apple may have very good reasons for denying the Government access to this information.