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Healthcare.gov security 'shockingly bad' say computer experts

Tuesday, January 28, 2014 by: J. D. Heyes
Tags: Healthcare.gov, website security, computer experts

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(NaturalNews) The federal government had years to design it, build it and test it. They had the full backing of the U.S. Treasury, compliments of the (dwindling) American taxpayer. And still, Washington bureaucrats couldn't make it work.

A government that mobilized 16 million during World War II, built hundreds of warships, tens of thousands of tanks and aircraft, developed the atomic bomb and, later, built the U.S. Interstate System and put men in space - has been unable, in 2014, to design and launch a functional website.

That's the sad story of Uncle Sam and his online Obamacare health insurance exchange, Healthcare.gov. Worse, say experts who have repeatedly examined the site, the security for it is "shockingly bad."

As reported by NBC News:

Cybersecurity researchers slammed HealthCare.gov's security during a House hearing [recently], saying the site is still riddled with problems that could put consumers' sensitive health details at risk.

"The reason we're concluding that this is so shockingly bad is that the issues across the site are so varied," David Kennedy, founder of the information security firm TrustedSec, told NBC News. "You don't even have to hack into the system to see big issues - which means there are [major problems] underneath."

Critics of Kennedy have said his conclusions are politically motivated, because he was brought in by Republicans in the House who are opposed to Obamacare. But he maintains that that isn't the case; his job, regardless of who asks him to do it, is to test the security of government sites.

'Nothing's really changed'

He's one of a group of "white-hat hackers" - hacking experts who try to break into government and corporate websites, not to steal or cause havoc, but to find security flaws so they can be fixed. And, Kennedy has said repeatedly (last fall after Healthcare.gov's abysmal launch and again just recently) that the site just isn't secure.

"Nothing's really changed since our November 19 testimony," Kennedy said during a recent House hearing. "In fact, it's worse."

In November, Kennedy identified 18 serious issues with the site. Now, weeks later, only half of one of those 18 issues has been fixed, he said. Not only that, but since then he has also found additional problems with the site:

A separate House Oversight committee hearing held [last week] included testimony from government officials including Teresa Fryer, the chief information officer of the Centers for Medicare and Medicare Services (CMS), which manages HealthCare.gov.

According to Fryer, HealthCare.gov passed a "security control assessment" on December 18 with "no open high findings." But she and the other officials faced a grilling from the panel about why more tests were not completed earlier, and why warnings about the site's launch were not heeded.

There are still some critical problems

During the Science Committee hearing, Kennedy said he would not disclose specifics about the vulnerabilities, because they are active issues that hackers could ultimately uncover and exploit. However, he did identify issues like the disclosure of user profiles, as well as the ability to access eligibility reports without proper identification.

"Some issues still include critical or high-risk findings to personal information," Kennedy said in his written testimony. In addition, the expert also submitted statements into the record from seven other security researchers who expressed serious concerns.

The CMS has since released a separate statement, in response to Kennedy's testimony, insisting that the agency took any and all security concerns seriously and that it has a "robust system in place" to address any security issues.

"To date, there have been no successful security attacks on Healthcare.gov and no person or group has maliciously accessed personally identifiable information from the site," the CMS said in the statement. The agency also said it continually conducts security testing on the site.

But many lawmakers remained unconvinced. And other experts, like Michael Gregg, CEO of the security consulting firm Superior Solutions, suggested that the government simply rolled out Healthcare.gov too quickly - before adequate product testing could be completed.

"Hacking today is big business," Gregg told the Science Committee.





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