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Friday, February 28, 2014

Lost USB flash drive exposes patient information in Hong Kong

In the United States, 2013 was a particularly bad year for data breaches.

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In the United States, 2013 was a particularly bad year for data breaches. The health industry alone saw a 138 percent increase in protected health information breaches, according to Fierce Health IT. The problem is a global one, however, as a recent Hong Kong incident demonstrates. Like many breaches in the United States, this latest exposure was the result of an employee keeping sensitive information on an unprotected USB flash drive - and then losing it.

Computerworld Hong Kong reported that a staff member of Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Hong Kong lost a flash drive containing health information from about almost 100 patients. The device wasn't password-protected or encrypted, leaving the information extremely vulnerable to exploitation. While the device was lost on February 18, the worker didn't notify authorities until February 21.

Hospital officials believe that there is low risk of the sensitive information being exposed to the public, the source explained. However, the incident points to how easy it is to lose control over sensitive data when secure file sharing practices aren't followed. Encryption and password protection would have been an improvement, but what organizations with important data really need is a comprehensive managed file transfer system that keeps information secure while providing the necessary access to workers.

Data breaches can be damaging for any organization, particularly when they involve sensitive personal information about customers or clients. With cybercrime on the rise, the black market provides lucrative opportunities for data thieves, which means that the threat of breaches will likely continue to rise. Organizations should do what they can to protect against accidents like employee error and misplaced or stolen hardware. To increase compliance and prevent workers from resorting to shortcuts, such as storing data on portable devices, companies need to implement policies and high-performance file solutions that are intuitive and convenient to use.