A different kind of leakage

For better or worse, data leaks went mainstream last year. So much for being “anonymous.”

Sure, the hackers who stole Christmas hit Target and Home Depot in late 2013, swiping credit card info of more than 100 million consumers combined.

But then banking behemoth Chase got bit, as well, losing track of the data of 76 million of its customers. I should know; I was one of them. Got two new debit cards in as many months. Sure, it’s a pain, especially when you’re traveling, but certainly better than the alternative.

(It’s nice to have a card so new that you can still read the security code number on the back. By the way, did you know that, on the black market, that number’s worth about $2? While someone can pick up all the numbers on a single card for a single Alexander Hamilton? Not very good for the self-esteem, I know.)

And, of course, we all know about Sony Pictures and all of those leaked emails, featuring Hollywood douchebags, North Korea and a movie so bad it didn’t deserve half the free publicity it received.

Now it’s hit closer to home for all of us, with the massive breach at Anthem – where 80 million customers (and potentially their medical histories) have been syphoned off into the “series of tubes,” to quote former Sen. Ted Stevens. (Again, that data – which can be used to file fake claims while nabbing scrips – also goes for about 10 bucks a pop.)

Worse yet, that very same week, TurboTax shut down its state return operations for a while that very same week because of fraudulent activity. The timing couldn’t be worse there, either, with PPACA insinuating itself into the tax filing process – as if it couldn’t get any more complicated.

You get the idea: cybersecurity – if there really is such a thing – is a moving target. Complacency’s a bigger threat than any hacker.

At a time when more of our private information is “out there,” this is one of those across-the board threats. Electronic enrollments are obviously now here to stay, more people are shopping for health care online both on and off the exchanges, and maybe someday we’ll actually drag electronic medical records into the 21st century.

Hell, thanks to companies like 23 and me, some of us even have our DNA information out there in the cloud somewhere.

Carriers and providers, obviously, have a lot at stake. But so do brokers and their employer clients, especially the smaller business owners, who have a lot more to lose than some retail giant that can just drops a few million on a PR blitz. Besides, all the numbers show they get hit the hardest, anyway, more than half of data breaches hit the little guys.

Brokers – as de facto small business advisors – should be talking to these clients about steps they can take both for themselves as well as their employees. And there are more than a few damn good partners out there willing to help you help your clients, whether it’s identity theft experts or legal services.

Let’s face it, these threats aren’t going away, and we can’t realistically unplug and hide away in some cabin in Wyoming. And neither can your clients.


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