ObamaCare Hackathon: Healthcare.gov May Expose Social Security Numbers

Tyler Durden's picture

The Obamacare tech team should add another pressing cyber issue to its to-do list. As Mother Jones reports, web secuirty experts warn that that Healthcare.gov (and various state exchanges), the Obamacare websites, has a security flaw that could make sensitive user information, including Social Security numbers, vulnerable to hackers. The website, reportedly, has a coding problem that could allow hackers to deploy a technique called "clickjacking," where invisible links are planted on a legitimate web page. Using this scheme, hackers could trick users into giving up personal data as they enter it into the web site, potentially placing Americans at risk of identity theft or allowing fraudsters to file bogus health care claims.

 

Via Mother Jones,

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it's not just the federal exchange that has security problems. Some of the 15 states that have established their own online exchanges aren't using standard encryption throughout their Obamacare websites—leaving user information at risk.

 

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Here's the problem: When an American signs up for Obamacare online, they must enter a good deal of personal information to verify identity—including name, Social Security number, phone number, email address, income, and employer—and identifying information for their family members. In the majority of states, Americans will enter this information directly into the Healthcare.gov website.

 

Kyle Wilhoit, a threat researcher at Trend Micro, a Japanese security software company, studied the Healthcare.gov portal with his security team and found a "moderate risk" for hacking due to an easy-to-fix coding problem that leaves the site vulnerable to clickjacking.

 

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"Common clickjacking would be a popular method to attempt to exploit [the site]" says Wilhoit. "Hackers could use this information in the creation of fake identities, fake credit cards, and fake accounts very easily." He adds that it's relatively easy to fix, although the fixed code would need to rolled out on multiple Healthcare.gov pages and potentially state websites as well.

 

Asked about clickjacking concerns, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) referred Mother Jones to this security statement, which says that Americans don't need to worry: "If a security incident occurs, an Incident Response capability would be activated, which allows for the tracking, investigation, and reporting of incidents."

 

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Some state Obamacare sites could be significantly more vulnerable than the federal portal. Healthcare.gov site uses a common form of encryption called Secure Sockets Layer (SSL), which prevents information from being intercepted by a hacker after you click "send" (SSL doesn't defend against most clickjacking). But the 15 states currently running their own independent Obamacare websites do not have explicit instructions from the HHS to use SSL.

 

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"These state sites...represent more viable targets for direct attack" than the federal data hub, Budd argues. And hackers have been known to target state healthcare programs—last year, over 280,000 Social Security numbers were stolen from Utah's Medicaid server.

 

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Many security experts argue that Healthcare.gov's code would quickly improve if it was open source—posted publicly for other programmers to examine, adapt, and improve. In fact, the code for the site was originally supposed to be open source. But HHS removed its code from open-source websites after developers complained they had trouble distinguishing which code belonged to which part of the website. Since then, all of Healthcare.gov's coding mistakes have happened behind closed doors.

So apart from low sign-up rates, inability to handle visitor volumes, FUBAR Account creation, incorrect pricing guidelines, helpline overload, and security holes... Obamacare is a great success so far