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Crap hospital databases next goldmine for cyber-crooks, say Microsoft's botnet slayers

Your medical files are worth big bucks to fraudsters

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RSA 2014 The low levels of security in healthcare IT systems, and the high value of its data, is going to make the sector the next big target for scammers, according to the Microsoft-backed team that takes down botnets.

"Healthcare is really in a disadvantaged place in cyber-security," said Patrick Peterson, CEO of security firm Agari, which worked on the Citadel botnet takedown with Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit.

"We studied from a statistical point of view which industries are doing the most to deal with malware. Banks and social media sites are at the top while healthcare scores a near incomplete."

Agari has been monitoring criminal marketplaces online, and Peterson said that the going price for a valid stolen credit card was only a couple of dollars. But a patient's medical records were much more valuable, and were priced at about $60 per person.

"Medical records, if you know how to game people, allows a multitude of fraud options," said Richard Boscovich, assistant general counsel for the Microsoft Digital Crimes Unit.

"With that you can impersonate someone to get into their bank account, you can get everything down to the color of their hair and eyes, and if you know how to socially engineer a bank or a store or a credit card then the sky's the limit. These guys are good, we've seen that happen."

Of the healthcare companies surveyed by Agari, only Aetna and Health South had made any progress in setting up systems so that users can verify the authenticity of official email messages. Agari estimates that you are five times as likely to get a malicious email claiming to be from a healthcare company as you are from a bank.

Boscovich said botnet takedowns were driving the online criminals into new areas like healthcare because the fraudsters were seeking higher value targets in order to compensate for the increased security precautions they were having to take. Both Microsoft and Agari are looking at new botnet armies to take on in order to make life more difficult for the herders. ®

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