Keep your passwords locked up tighter than a chastity belt

In the next quarter or two (or thereabouts) – you will be able to communicate with your health care provider at the Student Health Center via a secure emailing system.  Some of you might already see non-SHS physicians who communicate by email, or have set up secure access to your health information on-line; under the recently passed healthcare reform bill there are incentives aimed at driving all healthcare systems and providers to get your information wired.

In this brave new world, there are all kinds of important security considerations to consider as we move to an all electronic health record.  What if the power goes out?  What if the server goes down? What if that server is hacked?  Who can and can’t have access?  Health care organizations and providers are really struggling with these questions – and many more – as we try to figure out how to migrate your records from paper to pixels.   

Frankly, I’m not completely comfortable with the thought of my personal health information floating around in the clouds, and I’m online pretty much 24 hours a day. I mean, my Visa card information has been has been out there for years… and has been stolen four times in the last six months! (Although I refuse to shut down my Amazon shopping habit – that’s just letting the bad guys win).  My own wonderful doctor has put my info out there on her electronic record.  It’s about as interesting as a shoe box, but still.

With all this in mind, I chanced (via Lifehacker) on a most sobering article:

How I’d Hack Your Weak Passwords | One Man’s Blog

No matter how many real and virtual security guards there are between the world and your health, banking, social, shopping or other personal online information, it’s only as good as your lamest password. Seriously, read the post. Consider that the difference in hackability between a six character lowercase password and an 8 character mash-up is measured in CENTURIES.  And that your email account can be a freeway that exits straight into your bank account. Jeepers.

Must. Change. Password.

Victoria Rentel, MD