OIG Finds Cybersecurity Flaws in Federal Health Insurance Database | Healthcare Informatics Magazine | Health IT | Information Technology Skip to content Skip to navigation

OIG Finds Cybersecurity Flaws in Federal Health Insurance Database

September 28, 2015
by Heather Landi
| Reprints

The federal government stored sensitive information related to millions of insurance marketplace customers in a data repository with numerous basic security flaws, according to a report from the Department of Health and Human Services’ (HHS) Office of the Inspector General (OIG).

The OIG conducted an audit of the Multidimensional Insurance Data Analytics System (MIDAS), which supports the healthcare.gov health insurance exchange website and acts as a central repository for insurance-related data.

HHS uses MIDAS for data analysis and reporting for the Affordable Care Act, but MIDAS is operated by the Centers of Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) within HHS. The data stored in MIDAS includes a high volume of sensitive consumer information, such as names, Social Security numbers, addresses, dates of birth, financial account information and passport numbers.

THe OIG report also states that CMS was informed of the findings and began remediation efforts immediately.

"CMS reported that it remediated all vulnerabilities and addressed all findings we identified before we issued our final report," the OIG report states.

The OIG conducted an audit of MIDAS from August to December 2014 and examined whether CMS implemented information security controls to secure personally identifiable information (PII). During the audit, the OIG found areas for improvement in CMS’ information security controls, according to the OIG report.

The security weaknesses that auditors found include CMS' failure to disable unnecessary generic accounts in its test environment and CMS also did not encrypt user sessions, the report states. CMS also failed to conduct automated vulnerability assessments that simulate known attacks, which would have revealed vulnerabilities specific to the application or databases that support MIDAS, according to the report.

The OIG audit also found, as a result of vulnerability scans, 135 vulnerabilities, 22 of which were classified as high risk and 62 identified as medium risk.

“We shared with CMS information about our vulnerability scan findings immediately following the scan and informed CMS about other preliminary findings in advance of issuing our draft report. CMS began remediation efforts before the completion of our fieldwork,” the report states.

In a May 2015 letter in response to the audit, which was included in the report, CMS Acting Administrator Andrew Slavitt said “CMS worked with the OIG during the security testing and within a week of the findings being identified, CMS had addressed all the high vulnerabilities identified. CMS had addressed a majority of the remaining findings within 30 days of identification. All of OIG’s findings in this report were addressed by February 2015. In addition, all of the recommendations in this report were fully implemented prior to the draft report being issued.”

 

Get the latest information on Health IT and attend other valuable sessions at this two-day Summit providing healthcare leaders with educational content, insightful debate and dialogue on the future of healthcare and technology.

Learn More

Topics

News

ONC Roundup: Senior Leadership Changes Spark Questions

The Office of the National Coordinator for Health IT (ONC) has continued to experience changes within its upper leadership, leading some folks to again ponder what the health IT agency’s role will be moving forward.

Media Report: Walmart Hires Former Humana Executive to Run Health Unit

Reigniting speculation that Walmart and insurer Humana are exploring ways to forge a closer partnership, Walmart Inc. has hired a Humana veteran to run its health care business, according to a report from Bloomberg.

Value-Based Care Shift Has Halted, Study Finds

A new study of 451 physicians and health plan executives suggests that progress toward value-based care has stalled. In fact, it may have even taken a step backward over the past year, the research revealed.

Study: EHRs Tied with Lower Hospital Mortality, But Only After Systems Have Matured

Over the past decade, there has been significant national investment in electronic health record (EHR) systems at U.S. hospitals, which was expected to result in improved quality and efficiency of care. However, evidence linking EHR adoption to better care is mixed, according to medical researchers.

Nursing Notes Can Help Predict ICU Survival, Study Finds

Researchers at the University of Waterloo in Ontario have found that sentiments in healthcare providers’ nursing notes can be good indicators of whether intensive care unit (ICU) patients will survive.

Health Catalyst Completes Acquisition of HIE Technology Company Medicity

Salt Lake City-based Health Catalyst, a data analytics company, has completed its acquisition of Medicity, a developer of health information exchange (HIE) technology, and the deal adds data exchange capabilities to Health Catalyst’s data, analytics and decision support solutions.