Health Care and You: Consumer Resources

Check out the latest from Debra Diener, courtesy of Privacy Made Simple.

Health care issues, and patients rights, are in the forefront of the news. However, along with the accurate information, there is also confusing and inaccurate information being produced.

The good news for patients and consumers is that they can find accurate information presented in easily understandable terms at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) website (www.hhs.gov).  The HHS Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has produced various YouTube videos, fact sheets and brochures that provide up-to-date guidance on an array of topics.

For example, I watched the just-released HHS/OCR video titled “Your New Rights Under HIPAA” (HIPAA stands for the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act).  The video highlights some of the important new rights for patients under HIPAA (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3-wV23_E4eQ).

The video explains, among other points, that:

  • patients are entitled to get an electronic copy of their information (and that doctors might charge a small fee for copying the records or producing a thumb drive);
  • patients can ask that their doctor send the patients’ medical information to a friend or family member who’s involved with the patients’ medical care;
  • there are new tougher limits on the sale of health information, including the fact that this can’t be done (with a few exceptions) without getting permission from the patient;
  • parents and guardians now have an easier way to share a child’s immunization information with the child’s school; and
  • Privacy Policies of doctors should include information about the above (and other) new rights.

OCR has produced 10 other mini-videos on health issues; they can be found at: http://www.youtube.com/user/USGOVHHSOCR.  They have also produced four consumer fact sheets (available in eight different languages).  The fact sheets can be found at: http://www.hhs.gov/ocr/privacy/hipaa/understanding/consumers.  The fact sheets are handy references guides that are worth reading.

People need to be pro-active to learn how they can access and control their health information, have it shared or not shared as they wish and better protect their privacy.  The HHS/OCR materials are excellent resources that will help everyone do so.

Courtesy of Privacy Made Simple

Update on Adobe Attack: Millions More Victims

Check out the latest from Debra Diener, courtesy of Privacy Made Simple.

 

Back on October 4th and 7th, I wrote about the hackers who had gotten into the customer Adobe files (see, “Top 5 Things to Know About Abobe Hacking” and “Alert! Adobe Hacking Update”).

 

When the breach was first reported, Brad Arkin, Adobe’s Chief Security Officer, estimated there were around 2.9 million Adobe customers whose Adobe IDs, names, encrypted passwords, encrypted credit and/or debit card numbers (and expiration dates) along with order details had been hacked.  That now seems like a vastly underestimated number.

 

Anna Brading just reported that the final number is 38 million active Adobe customers (see, nakedsecurity.sophos.com; “Adobe breach THIRTEEN times worse than thought”).  Ms. Brading’s report is based on an announcement by Heather Edell, an Adobe spokesperson.   In her announcement, Ms. Edell says that Adobe has finished its investigation during which it identified the 38 million Adobe customers with active accounts who were affected.  Ms. Edell says those customers have already been contacted and that Adobe is now investigating whether any inactive Adobe customer accounts were hacked.

 

This is a “heads up” to Adobe customers — keep an eye on your credit and debit card bills and other financial account statements.  Remember to change passwords and don’t use the same one for multiple accounts.  Do check the Adobe website for further updates.

 courtesy of Privacy Made Simple.

Shine a Light on Online Tracking

Check out the latest from Debra Diener, courtesy of Privacy Made Simple.

 

Many consumers know that advertisers and companies are tracking their online footprints.  People might not like it but they accept it as part of using the Internet regularly.

Mozilla understands that consumers might want to know whose tracking them. To do so, Mozilla created Lightbeam, a new app that allows consumers to do just that.  It’s an add-on that can be downloaded onto the Firefox browser.  Lightbeam is an updated version of Collusion which is an earlier Firefox add-on.

How does Lightbeam work?  Nick Heath has an excellent article that also has a screen shot showing how LIghtbeam works (www.zdnet.com; “Want to know who’s spying on you online? There’s an app for that”; October 25).   In a nutshell, per Mr. Heath, each time a consumer visits a website Lightbeam will log “….every web address that is connecting to your machine, revealing how visiting a single website can result in your computer to (sic) connecting to many different web servers. Each of these servers may be controlled by different companies, and send and collect different information —for example, serving up images and adverts on the site or placing tracking cookies on your computer.”

Mr. Heath’s screen shot is a visual depiction of what a consumer will be able to see about the tracking.

I went to the Mozilla site to read more about Lightbeam (https://addons.mozilla.org; “Lightbeam for Firefox 1.0.2″).  The Mozilla site has more details about Lightbeam and the fact that it will enable consumers who download it to see both first and third party sites with which the consumer is interacting.  Consumers will, per the Mozilla article, be able to save a copy of the “connection history” which is the place where a consumer “…can see the specific data collected by the add-on.”

Consumers might want to take a look at Lightbeam, if for no other reason, to understand more about the different methods being used for online tracking.

Scammers Using Police Caller ID Numbers: Alert!

Check out the latest from Debra Diener, courtesy of Privacy Made Simple.

 

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) has just issued an alert about the latest scam being used by thieves to steal money and/or personal information (see, scam alert@council.bbb.org, “Scammers Impersonate Police with Spoofed Caller ID”).  Consumers need to be very alert to this ploy. BBB says the scams being used all around the country.

The scammers have gotten hold of a computer program that lets them change phone numbers that can be displayed on Caller ID — the spoofing part of this scam.  The scammers are using this technology to send calls with the right phone numbers of the local sheriff or police offices appearing when the recipients hit Caller ID.

The intended victims see the legitimate phone number, answer the call and are then told by the scammers (posing as the local sheriff or police) that there’s an arrest warrant out for them.  BBB reports that some of the scammers have been using the real names of local sheriffs or police officers in the calls — thus making the threat seem more legitimate.

The scammer tells the intended victim that he can avoid the criminal charge by paying a fine.  Here’s the next part of the scam: the scammer says the fine can only be paid by a money order or pre-paid debit card.

Now many people will see through this scam but others will be scared into doing so — maybe because the scammer uses a real name of a local police officer; or because they might not know what fines could exist for them; or because the scammer already has some personal information about the intended victim.  BBB cited the case of a Detroit-area woman who became a victim because the scammer specifically mentioned a loan she’d taken out (that alone raises more problems about how the scammers got that information).

Consumers should remember these “Do’s” and “Don’ts” to avoid becoming a victim:

  • Don’t wire money: legitimate police forces don’t operate by calling people and asking for money over the phone;
  • Do hang up ASAP: don’t call back as doing so might give the scammers more personal information they can later use for other criminal ends;
  • Do call the real local police or sheriff’s office: let them know about the call so they can alert others in the area; and
  • Don’t give out personal information: scams come in different formats and approaches but they all want the same thing — consumers’ money and/or personal information.