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Post-Anthem, Congressional Leaders Examining Health IT Security

February 10, 2015
by Gabriel Perna
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Anthem’s massive hack has gotten the attention of Congressional leaders, who are concerned over the potential lack of protective measures in the healthcare industry to keep sensitive data from being exposed.

U.S. Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) recently announced a bipartisan initiative focused on examining the security of health information technology and the health industry’s preparedness for cyber threats. Anthem’s hack exposed the data of 80 million customers, one of the biggest in the industry’s history.

“Patients, hospitals, insurers—and all Americans who value the safety and privacy of their sensitive personal information—have a right to be alarmed by reports that their electronic records might be vulnerable to a cyber attack. I look forward to working with Sen. Murray as we take a serious look at how these types of attacks may be prevented and examine whether Congress can help,” Sen. Alexander said in a statement.

The bipartisan initiative will aim to see whether Congress can help ensure the safety of health information technology, including electronic health records, hospital networks, insurance records, and network-connected medical devices, like pacemakers and continuous glucose monitors. Participants, including government oversight agencies, independent cybersecurity experts, health industry leaders and others, have already begun to meet.

Alexander and Murray are not the only U.S. Senators concerned over Anthem’s hack. Senator Dan Coats (R-Ind.), who is located in the same state as Anthem’s headquarters, released a statement noting that the cybersecurity threat to America's infrastructure is the number one national security risk the country faces. A recent report indicated that Chinese hackers are suspected to be the ones behind the Anthem hack.

On the House side, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) is conducting hearings on the various threats posed by cyber crimes, and representatives from Anthem Inc. will be included.

“This latest intrusion into patients’ personal information underscores the increasing magnitude and evolving nature of cyber crimes. Criminals and malevolent actors are finding new and creative ways to pick the locks of our increasingly connected world. Companies have been warned that it is not a matter of if they will be infiltrated, but when. Every business is at risk and American consumers are anxious,” Upton said in a statement.

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