Security concerns about HealthCare.gov are overblown, Democrats say

HHS officials report just 32 security incidents since the site has launched

Security concerns raised by Republican critics of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services' botched rollout of HealthCare.gov have been overstated, according to a memo released Friday by two Democratic members of Congress.

HHS officials, in a briefing to lawmakers this week, reported just 32 security incidents at HealthCare.gov since its Oct. 1 launch, and "there have been no successful security attacks," said the memo from Democratic Representatives Henry Waxman of California and Diana DeGette of Colorado.

The briefing was "reassuring," the lawmakers wrote. "The security of Healthcare.gov has not been breached, and hackers have had no access to personally identifiable information. HHS officials indicated that they were conducting 24-7 system monitoring and ongoing assessments in order to ensure and strengthen system security."

But it's concerning that HHS officials have found so few security incidents, said a spokeswoman for Representative Mike Rogers, a Michigan Republican who has questioned the site's security. Websites of comparable size to HealthCare.gov averaged more than 230 security incidents a day in the past year, said spokeswoman Kelsey Knight.

The lack of reported security incidents "is more concerning to us," she said. "That report shows that there's no system monitoring."

A cybersecurity expert has pointed out one security flaw at the site that could lead to phishing exploits, said Knight, whose boss is chairman of the House Intelligence Committee.

Eleven of the 32 security events remained under investigation as of Wednesday, Waxman and DeGette wrote in the memo.

Security investigators at HHS classified one of the remaining 21 events as an unsuccessful probe of the site and two incidents as inappropriate use of the site in violation of acceptable use policies. One of those two incidents was a denial-of-service attempt using malware called Destroy Obamacare, the memo said. Obamacare is the common name for the 2010 Affordable Care Act, the health insurance reform law that created HealthCare.gov.

Security investigators classified 15 of the incidents as unauthorized access, in which a website user gained unauthorized access to information. Those cases "were isolated in nature" and generally involved software bugs, the memo said. In one case that's been publicized, one user's personal information was shared with another user, the memo said, but "none of these events involved a significant breach of personal information."

In addition, security researchers ultimately decided two other events turned out to be "non-incidents," the memo said.

Grant Gross covers technology and telecom policy in the U.S. government for The IDG News Service. Follow Grant on Twitter at GrantGross. Grant's email address is grant_gross@idg.com.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags internetindustry verticalshealth careGovernment use of ITU.S. Department of Health and Human ServicesHenry WaxmanU.S. CongressMike RogersHealthcare.govKelsey KnightDiana DeGette

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Grant Gross

IDG News Service
Show Comments

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Tom Pope

Dynabook Portégé X30L-G

Ultimately this laptop has achieved everything I would hope for in a laptop for work, while fitting that into a form factor and weight that is remarkable.

Tom Sellers

MSI P65

This smart laptop was enjoyable to use and great to work on – creating content was super simple.

Lolita Wang

MSI GT76

It really doesn’t get more “gaming laptop” than this.

Jack Jeffries

MSI GS75

As the Maserati or BMW of laptops, it would fit perfectly in the hands of a professional needing firepower under the hood, sophistication and class on the surface, and gaming prowess (sports mode if you will) in between.

Taylor Carr

MSI PS63

The MSI PS63 is an amazing laptop and I would definitely consider buying one in the future.

Christopher Low

Brother RJ-4230B

This small mobile printer is exactly what I need for invoicing and other jobs such as sending fellow tradesman details or step-by-step instructions that I can easily print off from my phone or the Web.

Featured Content

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?