Wednesday, 5 July 2017

Would you trust these men with your personal health information?

The darknet vendor says they are “exploiting a vulnerability which has a much more solid foundation which means not only will it be a lot faster and easier for myself, but it will be here to stay. I hope, lol.” [The Guardian, 4 July 2017]
Left to Right: Minister for Human Services and Liberal MP for Aston, Alan Tudge
& Minister for Health and Liberal MP for Flinders, Greg Hunt

These two federal politicians have portfolio responsibility for some of the largest government databases in Australia.

One has portfolio responsibility for those sensitive e-health records which are due to be rolled out nationally on an opt-out basis by 2020.

This is how secure your personal information is on their watch…….

The Australian Federal Police is investigating reports Australians' personal Medicare details are being accessed and sold on the dark web, an apparent breach that has been labelled an "internet catastrophe".

According to a Guardian Australia report, an online vendor can pull up the full Medicare card details of any Australian on request — and is selling them for around $30 each — indicating a security hole somewhere in the health system.

Human Services Minister Alan Tudge said the government was taking the matter seriously. 

The sales are reportedly listed on an undisclosed dark web marketplace, in which the vendor claims to be "exploiting a vulnerability" in order to run software that pulls the data. The vendor calls it "the Medicare Machine".

"Leave the first and last name, and DOB of any Australian citizen, and you will receive their Medicare patient details in full", the listing says, adding that the nature of the security hole being utilised means the vendor will be "here to stay".

In a statement, Mr Tudge said any authorised access to Medicare card numbers was "of great concern" and his department was also conducting its own investigation. 

Medicare's database was always a honeypot waiting to be exploited once governments embraced data matching, data retention and data sharing with much enthusiasm but little understanding.

Once someone decides they want your Medicare details ID theft is now just 0.0089 bitcoin away - as is your abusive former spouse/partner or that anonymous stalker or Internet troll that has been making your life a misery.


Anthony Baxter, 4 July 2017:

You supply the person with name, date of birth and gender and around $30 of Bitcoin they'll give you the person's Medicare number. This is pretty bad, as it allows idemtity thieves to forge them - a Medicare card is usually worth 25 points on the standard 100 point ID check here. The AU govt had no idea this was happening until the journo from The Guardian let them know.

It turns out there's a portal that any health care provider can use to look up Medicare numbers this way. In case you've lost your card or whatever. Likely it's someone who works for one of them selling access, or someone's popped a PC there (more on that to come).

When asked, the relevant government minister (the same guy who presided over the Census fuckup last year (update: I misremembered, that was a different clown), the accidental publishing of PBS data that was poorly deidentified and the ongoing Centrelink robodebt nightmare) claimed it's OK because you can't get access to someone's medical records through the shiny new online electronic health records system with just a Medicare number. Aside from ignoring the ID theft issue there's a liiiiiittle bit of an issue here.

Guess what information you need along with the Medicare number to pull someone's medical records? Did you guess "name, date of birth and gender"? Collect your prize.

According to the folks who did the Privacy Impact Assessment on the electronic health records system were told it would be secure because you needed Medicare number as well as name/DOB/gender and weren't told you could use the latter to look up the former.

It Gets Worse.

In theory you can only look up this stuff from a secure endpoint, with a client side certificate installed. Which in practice means maybe 20K PCs scattered across every doctors office in the country. Worse still, many of these client certs were originally sent out via unencrypted email, and a nontrivial number were "lost". And you reckon all or even a significant fraction of these 20K boxes are running modern Windows with up to date patches? Me neither. I can't count the number of times I've been left alone in a room with an unlocked doctor's PC while he went to check something.

It (Incredibly) Gets Even Worse.

They have a Two Factor Auth system which doctors are supposed to use. One of the ways to get the 2FA key is, and I wish I was joking here, email.

So get access to a box running some XP/Win7 version that's ludicrously unpatched that's also logged into the doctors email, collect health care records. Australian government cannot computer.

At the moment the electronic health records thing is opt-in, at some point next year they'll be moving to an opt-out scheme with a window to opt-out. There's an email form here where you can sign up to be notified when the window to opt the hell out is opened and I urge everyone to do so A


The federal government was warned more than three years ago of security deficiencies surrounding personal Medicare data, with the Department of Human Services told it was not fully complying with spy agency rules.

Questioning the department's ability to keep the data safe from "security threats from external and internal sources", the government auditor made a series of recommendations in April 2014 but it is unclear if they were fully implemented.

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