Healthcare and the Wild West of the Internet


Across my daily reading and social media, today’s brought a running list of security problems related to ObamaCare, probably triggered by this Washington Post story on a California hospital that wound up paying hackers ransom in order to restore access to necessary medical records:

“On the evening of February 5th, our staff noticed issues accessing the hospital’s computer network,” he wrote. “Our IT department began an immediate investigation and determined we had been subject to a malware attack. The malware locked access to certain computer systems and prevented us from sharing communications electronically.”

What communications needed to be electronically shared? As Stefanek got around to pointing out a few paragraphs later, medical records. As reports emerged of the hospital being forced to resort to the pre-historic days of paper charts, at least one patient was feeling the pain.

The thing about acceding to criminals’ demands in the Wild West of the Internet is that it encourages future attempts to achieve the same heist.  At least this time, it was apparently just information blockage, rather than information theft, but the lure of this digital train full of informational gold will only become larger.

As a society, we need to find a balance between freedom and an ability to organize and conduct business, particularly business related to our health.  But think about where we are, in this case: The government is pushing for the centralizing of information and forcing people to put their information at risk.  Even before the West is tamed, in other words, the government is taking steps to force people to put their gold on the trains crisscrossing it.

Of course, this is only a risk for individuals and their freedom.  From the perspective of those who want mostly to expand the role and reach of government, the insecurity is a benefit.  The more they force us to risk our valuable information, the more insecurity we’ll have and the more we’ll be burned.  With each incident, we’ll become that much more willing to hand over our freedom in the hope that government can make us more secure again.

It becomes difficult to say who the real outlaw is.