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Spyware Prank Exposes Hospital Medical Records 319

Posted by kdawson
from the epic-keylogger-fail dept.
cheerytt writes "Let this be a lesson to all the broken-hearted geeks out there. A 38-year-old Ohio man is set to plead guilty to federal charges after spyware he meant to install on the computer of a woman he'd had a relationship with ended up infecting computers at a children's hospital. Spyware was sent to the woman's Yahoo e-mail address in the hope it would be used to monitor what his former girlfriend was doing on her PC. But instead, she opened the spyware on a computer in the hospital's pediatric cardiac surgery department. The spyware sent more than 1,000 screen captures via e-mail, including details of medical procedures, diagnostic notes and other confidential information relating to 62 patients. The man will pay $33,000 to the hospital for damages and faces a maximum sentence of five years in prison."
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Spyware Prank Exposes Hospital Medical Records

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  • by jrumney (197329) on Friday September 18, 2009 @02:28AM (#29463087) Homepage
    He should have just planted a GPS in her handbag, then he'd have the full protection of Massachusetts law.
  • The Woman (Score:5, Insightful)

    by some_guy_88 (1306769) on Friday September 18, 2009 @02:29AM (#29463095) Homepage

    So what's happening to the woman who stupidly ran an exe she recieved in an email?

    • Re:The Woman (Score:5, Interesting)

      by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Friday September 18, 2009 @02:37AM (#29463147) Homepage Journal

      In a hospital no less.

      What happened to the geek who setup the transparent web proxy that allowed that?

      • Are there any proxies who can filter _all_ sort of packing/zipping/password protected executable files with a 100% hit rate? I doubt it.
        • Re:The Woman (Score:5, Insightful)

          by QuantumG (50515) * <qg@biodome.org> on Friday September 18, 2009 @02:49AM (#29463231) Homepage Journal

          Most all of them can be configured to reject anything they can't verify as "safe". Whitelist, don't blacklist, it's the first rule of security.

          • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

            by CarpetShark (865376)

            Whitelist, don't blacklist, it's the first rule of security.

            Except when you're mandated to provide general internet access.

            • by QuantumG (50515) *

              Hope you got that mandate in writing.

            • Re:The Woman (Score:5, Insightful)

              by mcvos (645701) on Friday September 18, 2009 @05:45AM (#29464045)

              Whitelist, don't blacklist, it's the first rule of security.

              Except when you're mandated to provide general internet access.

              If for whatever silly reason you need to provide general, unprotected internet access, you do that with seperate machines, isolated from the hospital medical record stuff.

              Whichever way you spin this, it's a horrible, gaping hole in the security of the hospital's computer system. The people who set it up and authorised it need to be fired and replaced by people who know something about (the need for) security.

              • Re:The Woman (Score:5, Insightful)

                by guruevi (827432) <evi.smokingcube@be> on Friday September 18, 2009 @10:01AM (#29465841) Homepage

                You obviously don't work at a hospital. It would be very unpractical to provide 2 machines to every person, 1 for web access and 1 for hospital records. The issue is that this person ran spyware that she received. Virus scanners won't help, the only thing that could help is that she shouldn't have admin privileges (which is kinda impossible with some hospital software on Windows) or she shouldn't be running on the Windows platform (Mac or Linux can be more granular when running programs as an Administrator).

        • by Futurepower(R) (558542) <MJennings.USA@NOT_any_of_THISgmail.com> on Friday September 18, 2009 @05:41AM (#29464031) Homepage
          "Are there any proxies who can filter _all_ sort of packing/zipping/password protected executable files with a 100% hit rate? I doubt it."

          What????

          Don't you know about limited user rights? That prevents ANY installation of ANY program.

          If someone accidentally kills someone else while driving a car, he or she will get less time for manslaughter than this man is supposedly getting for sending an email to a PRIVATE address.

          Is this story a hoax? There is only one other report, and that report is identical: Misdirected Spyware Infects Ohio Hospital [pcworld.com]. Both apparently came from the IDG News Service. This is the last sentence of both stories: "A spokeswoman with the Akron Children's Hospital was unaware of the case and unable to comment." She was unaware of a case that is 18 months old?
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by drsmithy (35869)

            Don't you know about limited user rights? That prevents ANY installation of ANY program.

            You don't need to install software for it to run and do nasty things.

    • by WarJolt (990309)

      I mentioned eMule to a co-worker. He was fired the next day. I found out when I had an interesting visit from one of the execs asking me if I knew what eMule was. It brought down the entire network. It's been my experience most organizations don't take incompetence lightly. I bet she got fired and I think the IT guy should go too.

      • Given how badly IT has been run at some place I have worked, I would say lots of organisations cannot identify technical incompetence.

        • They can't. HR doesn't understand computers, I've had job interviews that felt a bit like they ran along the script of the IT-Crowd pilot.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Shikaku (1129753)

        Note to self, quick and easy way to get rid of unwanted coworker.

    • by mspohr (589790)
      So what's happening to the IT administrator who stupidly installed a Windows computer with an open admin account that allowed the woman to run an exe?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Opportunist (166417)

      Probably nothing, at least not from the law. She's protected by the fact that judges are stupid enough to do the same and don't want to go to jail themselves.

  • HIPAA - SHMIPAA (Score:5, Insightful)

    by C18H27NO3 (1282172) on Friday September 18, 2009 @02:30AM (#29463105)
    I wonder how it came to be that one would be permitted to check web-based email in the hospital's pediatric cardiac surgery department?
    This incident could very well be the least of their problems for all they know.
    The fact that it was able to install and send screenshots willy-nilly to Graham and who-knows-where-else is a HIPAA nightmare.


    Just for grins I went looking through their employment opportunities to see if any IT jobs opened up recently and stumbled upon this:
    (Not relevant to this thread but interesting, nonetheless

    Nicotine-free hiring policy
    Because itâ(TM)s important for healthcare providers to promote a healthy environment and lifestyle, Akron Childrenâ(TM)s Hospital has a nicotine-free hiring policy.
    Newly hired employees are tested for nicotine as part of a pre-employment panel of medical tests.
    Akron Childrenâ(TM)s will not hire applicants who test positive for nicotine use.
    If you test positive for nicotine, the offer of employment made to you will be rescinded.
    If after 90 days you successfully quit using nicotine, you may reapply for employment.
    • Re:HIPAA - SHMIPAA (Score:4, Informative)

      by pz (113803) on Friday September 18, 2009 @02:45AM (#29463201) Journal

      I wonder how it came to be that one would be permitted to check web-based email in the hospital's pediatric cardiac surgery department?

      This incident could very well be the least of their problems for all they know.

      The fact that it was able to install and send screenshots willy-nilly to Graham and who-knows-where-else is a HIPAA nightmare.

      Indeed, it gives one great pause since that computer *should* have been running anti-virus software to check each download and executable as it was opened, and, presumably, would have caught this installation. Through professional contacts, I'm passingly familiar with the IT environment in a Big University Hospital and the hoops that my colleagues have to jump through to put a PC on the hospital network are near onerous. Those machines are sterile, or as close to sterile as humanly possible.

      Given this transgression and their draconian nicotine policy (which surely must be illegal), the moral of the story is clear: do not, under any circumstances, seek treatment at Akron Children's Hospital.

      • Indeed, it gives one great pause since that computer *should* have been running anti-virus software to check each download and executable as it was opened, and, presumably, would have caught this installation. Through professional contacts, I'm passingly familiar with the IT environment in a Big University Hospital and the hoops that my colleagues have to jump through to put a PC on the hospital network are near onerous. Those machines are sterile, or as close to sterile as humanly possible.

        Don't be a shithead. E-Mail is not a replacement for a file system. Nor should hospitals be using systems that are even remotely succeptible to malware. Pretending otherwise or, worse, blaming the user for defective products is an M$ attitude. There are two underlying problems hidden:

        1) How the hell was it possible for a hospital unit to have Windows on any of their computers in the first place? HIPAA [informit.com] compliance has been mandatory for many years now and there has been more than enough time to phase o

        • by horatiocain (1199485) on Friday September 18, 2009 @03:59AM (#29463591)

          1) How the hell was it possible for a hospital unit to have Windows on any of their computers in the first place? HIPAA [informit.com] compliance has been mandatory for many years now and there has been more than enough time to phase out Windows. Did you read the dozen EULAs for the Windows box and all its software and server hooks? For all service packs and CALs? Thought not. Neither did the hospital management. The woman is not at fault, the hospital management who signed of on the purchase or deployment of the Windows machines is the sole group to blame (excepting the sender of course).

          I have an ugly truth for you - almost every hospital in the US uses Windows (95 through XP) for every single workstation. Every single Healthcare IT software vendor develops solely for windows (save a few web-based packages.) It's a very pure MS monoculture. I know, I know, it's sick. I agree completely with the above, but the emperor is threadless here.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by drsmithy (35869)

          1) How the hell was it possible for a hospital unit to have Windows on any of their computers in the first place? HIPAA compliance has been mandatory for many years now and there has been more than enough time to phase out Windows.

          Which part of HIPAA do you think precludes using Windows ?

      • by shentino (1139071)

        At Will Employment

    • I agree but when I broke my arm my xrays were delayed by virus problems. Then they sent my xrays to me on a CD and it came with handy DLL files for processing the data. Fortunately for me gimp got the libraries it needed from the ubuntu repositories.

    • Re:HIPAA - SHMIPAA (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Mr. Roadkill (731328) on Friday September 18, 2009 @03:34AM (#29463429)

      Newly hired employees are tested for nicotine as part of a pre-employment panel of medical tests.

      That'll be interesting in the future - discrimination on the grounds of disability or medical condition, perhaps?

      There's some evidence that nicotine delivered by patch can help with things like parkinsons, alzheimers, depressive conditions, ADD and a whole lot of other things. Various native peoples have ingested tobacco to treat constipation and wom infestations, and I see no reason why people using it exclusively as a herbal remedy for these or other conditions should be penalised. I'm a non-smoker and won't take it up - I think it's disgusting - but if nicotine patches were safe and effective and cheap when compared with other medication I'd use them and take my prospective employers to court if need be. I'd also be the guy passing around the poppseed bagels, fwiw...

    • Nicotine-free hiring policy Because itâ(TM)s important for healthcare providers to promote a healthy environment and lifestyle, Akron Childrenâ(TM)s Hospital has a nicotine-free hiring policy. Newly hired employees are tested for nicotine as part of a pre-employment panel of medical tests. Akron Childrenâ(TM)s will not hire applicants who test positive for nicotine use. If you test positive for nicotine, the offer of employment made to you will be rescinded. If after 90 days you successfully quit using nicotine, you may reapply for employment.

      Wow, that's shocking in so many ways. Excluding potentially talented employees, discrimination on questionable legal grounds, and so on. The HR folks are just as sharp as the IT folks, it appears. (I write as an HR management consultant and former smoker, so I do know something about this.)

    • by Yvanhoe (564877)
      My first tought was : and what charges will the woman and the hospital face for making this possible at all ?
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      Surely that would be against the discrimination laws in most civilised countries.
    • I wonder how it came to be that one would be permitted to check web-based email in the hospital's pediatric cardiac surgery department?

      You mean like gmail, or even hotmail? Get real. Half the world has these or a yahoo address. Telling people they can't access those would be like saying they can't use email at all. Unless the hospital is prepared to provide its own email servers and address and spam filtering and etc, etc, webmail IS a valid substitute for employee email.

      • You are correct as far as it goes, but there is no reason they need to allow unfettered internet access on all machines. Any machine connected to medical records should have been locked down. She should have only been able to connect to her webmail account from a machine to which she needed a login and password to access and was wiped clean after every logout. I don't hold her responsible, but the hospital IT is at least guilty of gross incompetence (assuming this policy wasn't forced on them by penny pi
    • Re:HIPAA - SHMIPAA (Score:5, Informative)

      by neurogeneticist (1631367) on Friday September 18, 2009 @08:11AM (#29464797)

      I actually am a physician, and work at a hospital with electronic records. We do not have, nor have I ever worked at a hospital the does have, an independent set of computers with medical records, separate from ones to use for other purposes. The work-flow is just not feasible with such a system, which would require us to look things up on one computer while referencing and typing notes into another one, while dozens of other people walk around the unit trying to do the same thing.

      If you really want your mind blown, many electronic medical record systems run through internet browsers, and are not compatible with anything other than IE.

      Oh, and I can access it from home with an RSA key if Clean-client thinks my machine looks OK.

      Locking down sounds good to some of you, but it would break the workflow in a medical system that is already operating near the breaking point.

  • Stereotype much? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CarpetShark (865376) on Friday September 18, 2009 @02:35AM (#29463133)

    Let this be a lesson to all the broken-hearted geeks out there.

    Uhh, we're not all psycho-privacy-invaders with no ability to let go and move on, you insensitive clod.

  • by 89cents (589228) on Friday September 18, 2009 @02:35AM (#29463139)
    a) The man for emailing the spyware?

    b) The woman for opening it and infecting the computer?

    c) Yahoo for not blocking it?

    d) The hospital for not only allowing internet access from a computer with personally identifiable information, but for also allowing the spyware to get installed.

    e) Some combination of the above?

    • by wordsnyc (956034) on Friday September 18, 2009 @02:44AM (#29463189) Homepage

      d) The hospital for not only allowing internet access from a computer with personally identifiable information, but for also allowing the spyware to get installed.

      Bingo. They failed to take steps a reasonably prudent person would have taken to protect patient confidentiality under Federal law. Spyware installation via email is not exactly news.

      • by malkavian (9512) on Friday September 18, 2009 @04:33AM (#29463769) Homepage

        Right. Ever worked in that environment? Nope? Thought not.. I have..
        You're faced with:

        Consultant (medical doctor) says "I need to access the net to be able to read research papers, proposals, and various ad hoc sites that contain research on the subjects that I deal with, along with external mail that I use because I move from hospital to hospital quite regularly.".
        IT says: "You can't access the net from that machine".
        Consultant goes to see hospital directors, stamps feet, and IT get overridden.

        Bear in mind there are several thousand PCs on a lot of hospital sites, with maybe 3 technicians to go fix and maybe one or 2 sysadmins. Hospital HR frequently sees IT as just waving a magic wand and things happen miraculously, so it's a "good way to save costs".
        If you tie machine names down that can't access the net, I can guarantee a consultant will find a way to get a machine in the area that does, even if it's moving someone else's there.
        As for breaking terms and conditions of use. Who do you think will win that pissing competition? Someone in the beleagured and under funded/under resourced IT department who is overlooked and overworked, or the consultant with the hand shakes and the ear of the board of directors?

        Coupled with the fact that not all antivirus and anti-malware will spot every variant. It'll get 90+ percent, but you always hear about the ones that get through.
        I'm surprised an executable got through the proxy filtering there, but hey.. Without knowing all the ins and outs of this in detail, I'm going to reserve judgement.

        The real world can be a messy morass of politics.. Working in a hospital, or academia, really has that in excess.. Try working in one if you think it's easy.. I'd be interested in hearing your opinion after doing it for a while..

        • by Dhalka226 (559740) on Friday September 18, 2009 @05:44AM (#29464043)

          d) The hospital for not only allowing internet access from a computer with personally identifiable information, but for also allowing the spyware to get installed. Bingo. They failed to take steps a reasonably prudent person would have taken to protect patient confidentiality under Federal law.

          Consultant goes to see hospital directors, stamps feet, and IT get overridden.

          You make a compelling argument for not firing the IT guy for what happens which, let's face it, is probably what will happen after they scapegoat him if anything bad happens to the hospital.

          However, "they" in the GP's post referred to "the hospital." In that sense it doesn't really matter if it's an incompetent IT staffer, a cranky doctor or poor executive management. Something that needed to be done under the law wasn't done, and the result was the leaking of confidential medical information. The hospital still deserves both blame and punishment for that.

        • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

          by Hal_Porter (817932)

          You know what. IT support are janitors. Much in the same way that the janitors can't tell Doctors/executives "you can't do that for the good of the hospital/company", IT support can't do that either.

          So the chances of locking down a network that people work on is essentially zero. And much like janitors, when users make a mess of things is IT support's job to clean it up.

        • by PinchDuck (199974) on Friday September 18, 2009 @07:28AM (#29464539)

          I've worked in the IT department of hospitals in the UK, Australia, and the United States. The situation is the same in every one, you described it perfectly. Physicians are gods, and will be allowed to circumvent any IT policies they see fit, even if it exposes the entire hospital to a security risk.

      • by Inda (580031)
        Spyware installation via email is news to me in 2009. Does it really still happen? My email provider will not allow me to open executables and I've been happy with that arrangement for 3 or 4 years. Even before that, AV would have intercepted it. And before that we had I Love You and lessons were learnt...

        Not even Outlook 2003 would have opened and installed that spyware.
    • by WarJolt (990309)

      The man is criminally liable for sending the e-mail and infecting computers.

      The hospital is at fault for releasing the documents.

      Yahoo doesn't claim to block ALL threats. Yahoo is fine.

      In order to find the woman at fault you would have to prove she is criminally negligent.

      I say A and D are in trouble, but I bet you B gets fired.

    • by pz (113803) on Friday September 18, 2009 @02:52AM (#29463249) Journal

      a) The man for emailing the spyware?

      Yes, for causing spyware to be installed. Electronic trespassing. Theft of HIPPA-regulated information. Stalking.

      b) The woman for opening it and infecting the computer?

      Yes, for abject stupidity.

      c) Yahoo for not blocking it?

      Probably not.

      d) The hospital for not only allowing internet access from a computer with personally identifiable information, but for also allowing the spyware to get installed.

      Yes, for IT incompetence. But they are also liable for some serious charges for violation of HIPPA regulations. It's entirely possible they will lose all Federal support. Breaching HIPPA is a big deal.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by BenevolentP (1220914)

        Im so sick of the "guilty of stupidity" argument so common here on slashdot.
        For most people, computers are still a small, convenient part of life, so they don't educate themselves about it's threats.

        But even if they are actually stupid, as in low IQ or poor planning abilities, that does NOT make them guilty in any sense if they're victims of some sad, controlling stalker.

        Reminds me a little of some people who say that people who get caught smoking pot 3 times deserve the 25 years in prison they get in some

      • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Breaching HIPPA is a big deal.

        Is it? Have things changed since 2006?
        http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/06/04/AR2006060400672.html [washingtonpost.com]

        "In the three years since Americans gained federal protection for their private medical information, the Bush administration has received thousands of complaints alleging violations but has not imposed a single civil fine and has prosecuted just two criminal cases."

        Lots of legislation gets passed to placate voters, but is deliberately de-fanged by not provid

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Kjella (173770)

        b) The woman for opening it and infecting the computer?

        Yes, for abject stupidity.

        Why? It's a computer where apparently public internet access is accepted, being tricked into installing spyware is stupidity but hardly criminally negligent stupidity. To me it sounds like a major WTF in security design (one pc for both) and permissions (how did she manage to execute the spyware), but her actions are just simple gullability that millions of users fall for.

      • b) The woman for opening it and infecting the computer?

        Yes, for abject stupidity.

        That depends on how well the executable was disguised.

        It depends on whether it launched when she opened the e-mail. It depends on the content and header of the e-mail itself.

        It depends on the security of her home computer. Her own e-mail program or browser. The protection provided by her ISP.

        Think it through.

        Imagine yourself as the specific target of a malicious attachment. Crafted by someone who knew you well. Who "thinks ge

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      a) The man for emailing the spyware?

      b) The woman for opening it and infecting the computer?

      Is this like that question in ethics class where we had to decide who was the most moral, a question seemingly designed to start fights? I'm no good at those - I say the goon at the end, but then people call me horrible.

      Explanation in case it's not as universal as I thought....

      A woman has to get to her wedding, but the only way is to ride with the boat captain, who will only accept sex for payment. She rides the bumpy boat to the church, makes it there on time. The groom ditches the bride at the altar

      • by shentino (1139071)

        The bride, apart from breaking her virginity, took pleasure in the groom's misery.

        The captain, much like Microsoft, was the sole arbiter of church transportation and exploited his position to secure monopoly profit of sex.

        The goon, just like a mercenary, committed assault for profit.

        The least immoral would be the groom. Lack of sympathy notwithstanding, he is the only one of the bunch that has clean hands.

        Regarding the actual scenario, it depends on the facts.

        First of all, if she violated internal regulati

    • by gmuslera (3436)
      You are missing a few alternatives

      f) The one that wrote the spyware

      g) The ones that decided to put windows connected with internet and managed by people with no concepts in security in computers with sensible information

      h) Bill Gates

      i) Canada (when in doubt, blame Canada)
    • by hyfe (641811)
      Who is really to blame for a rape?

      a) The man doing it?
      b) The woman for wearing suggestive clothes?
      c) The Police for not being there?
      d) The nightclub they met at for not monitoring everything closely enough?

      ..and yes, I do know the analogy doesn't quite hold, but I do believe it's close enough. If you commit a crime, you're at fault for breaking it. Always.

      The victim should never get the blame for not anticipating somebody being an asshole. You might say they already got their punishment for that mis

      • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

        by gnud (934243)
        What I (and I suspect others) mean, is that she should really have known not to open email attachments on that computer.

        Of course the dude's at fault. But this could easily have been prevented. I could try to fit this into a rape analogy, but that would just be sad.
        You can never prove that a rape wouldn't have happened if not for the miniskirt.
        The spyware would not have gotten installed if not for her running weird programs on a hospital computer.

        On the other hand, she should probably not have been
      • by Opportunist (166417) on Friday September 18, 2009 @07:44AM (#29464625)

        You ARE aware that the victims in this case are the patients of the hospital, not the woman who foolishly installed the spyware, yes?

    • Yeah its E) as all but C) because yahoo doesn't promise 100% accuracy.
    • Blame Canada! Blame Canadaaaa~~

      It isn't even a real country anyways.
    • ....I would judge b) thru e) as incompetence, and a) as malice of forethought.

      The woman is a careless victim, the patients are innocent victims, the hospital is a victim of it's own incompetence, the guy is a creepy bunny-boiler who got more than he bargained for when he deliberately hacked her computer.

      If I were Judge Judy, after lecturing all three on their different styles of stupidity I would then award as follows...;
      The hospital would get nothing in the way of compenstation and would be forced t
    • Well, it's not c)

      It's virtually impossible to detect unknown threats, unless you're willing to deal with a lot of false alarms which is by the very nature of Yahoo mail pretty much impossible. You can do that with your mailserver, where your users should only have restricted access and where you can dictate pretty much anything, including that the sending and receiving of executables is disallowed, but Yahoo has to keep a pretty open file attachment policy or people will move from Yahoo mail to GMail or wha

  • Your basement doesn't have an email account, and doesn't leave you when you treat it badly;-)

  • How did they get to that number? Removing spyware isn't that expensive. For that money you could even replace a bunch of machines and trash the old ones.

    • by malkavian (9512) on Friday September 18, 2009 @04:48AM (#29463821) Homepage

      Forensics, identifying exactly what the spyware was, conducting a thorough scan of all the network to see if it had spread, identifying what data was transferred, the infection vector, the administrative overheads of stopping the normal work to call an 'emergency situation' in which the sysadmins will concentrate on this exclusively, possibly not doing other maintenance work, or systems commissioning thus holding up medical projects (with the cost to them too).
      Administrative time throughout the hospital, as a fair part of the management chain will have this as a high profile to concentrate on, police liaison (and having time to have them on site to investigate in situ, and having technical staff support them), communications time to liaise with press, people to field the phone calls that come in, extra load on the patient support lines to cope with frantic patients who aren't in the best state of mind anyway after suffering cardiac problems, who are now worrying about what of their information is in the wild.. That's the tip of the iceberg by the way.
      Begin to see how that racks up to the big numbers? The machines aren't the expense, they're practically disposable. Unfortunately, data isn't tangible, so the non-IT staff don't see this shiny big item, and thus (out of sight, out of mind) don't consider it worth spending money over. All they see is that clicking a button makes data appear. Magic. Doesn't take effort, so why do they need an IT team to make it work? They decide they don't, cut IT funding (or never put it there), and eventually something like this happens because there isn't resource to make a secure network. And when it does, who gets the blame? Even from supposed 'geeks' who are supposed to understand what it's like being in an intensive overstressed IT role?

  • ...win stupid prizes.

  • Not a Prank (Score:5, Informative)

    by pz (113803) on Friday September 18, 2009 @02:57AM (#29463271) Journal

    The article's title is "Spyware Prank Exposes Hospital Records".

    The actions described are not a prank. They are serious, and illegal by many standards. If the accusations are true, the fellow deserves everything thrown at him. The article's title should be changed to reflect the severity. Installing spyware to keep tabs on your ex-GF is not a prank. It's stalking.

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by umghhh (965931)
      why is this that fellow that is responsible for getting the records - this was obviously not his goal and if he is charged for it then it is just laughable. OTOH he is responsible for attempting to invade his Ex's privacy and that is serious enough to get some sort of punishment but why is the hospital getting the money - they are guilty of criminal negligence in handling patients' data so they should be paying not getting paid.

      to me it looks like one more example of justice system malfunctioning. It is n

      • Re:Not a Prank (Score:5, Insightful)

        by coaxial (28297) on Friday September 18, 2009 @04:20AM (#29463705) Homepage

        why is this that fellow that is responsible for getting the records - this was obviously not his goal and if he is charged for it then it is just laughable.

        What the hell is this supposed to mean? Since when has committing a crime unintentionally ever been a defense?

        "Oh officer! I wasn't INTENDING to kill all the cancer stricken orphans when I driving drunk, speeding, and firing my gun wildly! I just intending to disturb the peace!"
        "Oh! Well, that's a horse of a different color! I'll let you go with a warning then. Just try and keep it down next time. People are trying sleep around here."
        "Will do!"

        but why is the hospital getting the money - they are guilty of criminal negligence in handling patients' data so they should be paying not getting paid.

        1. It's criminal trespassing to access a computer without permission. Which he did by sending the spyware to someone with the intent to observe them.
        2. The hospital didn't hand out the data. It was stolen. It's still theft even if I leave the door wide open. It wasn't his. He has it, as a result of his actions.

        to me it looks like one more example of justice system malfunctioning. It is not a great malfunction but shows that punishment and the crime are matched not by the facts but by the random acts of gov. officials. Was it not something that american constitution tried to prevent?

        The opinion of someone who is woefully ignorant of the law, the intent of the law, common law, and basic morality, but yet somehow is an expert on constitutional law.

        It must be tough being so smart and surrounded by so many people that are blind to your brilliance.

        Go home and cry in your Ayn Rand novel.

        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by Ihlosi (895663)

          Since when has committing a crime unintentionally ever been a defense?

          Um, always? Most crimes require intent. Some require merely negligence. If you're charged with a crime that requires intent, and intent cannot be proven, then you cannot be sentenced for it.

          "Oh officer! I wasn't INTENDING to kill all the cancer stricken orphans when I driving drunk, speeding, and firing my gun wildly! I just intending to disturb the peace!"

          1. You're not being charged with anything by a police officer. That's the job of

        • Re:Not a Prank (Score:4, Insightful)

          by Dhalka226 (559740) on Friday September 18, 2009 @05:24AM (#29463951)

          Since when has committing a crime unintentionally ever been a defense?

          Sometimes, but more importantly it is pretty much always a mitigating factor. Your hypothetical person would be charged with reckless homicide, not capital murder (DUI = felony, murder = felony, having a gun during commission of a felony = felony). It sounds like he killed enough people in the anecdote for the differences to be semantic, but it's not nonexistent.

          Intent does matter. In this case, you can be pretty sure that's the reason the charge is only intercepting or conspiring to intercept electronic communications. They could easily have tacked on any number of unauthorized access/"hacking" charges.

          1. It's criminal trespassing to access a computer without permission. Which he did by sending the spyware to someone with the intent to observe them.

          Yeah, and? You said it yourself: criminal trespass. It's a government charge. The "victim" doesn't get the money. If they want to recover whatever it cost them to clean the systems and do whatever else it is they've done as a result of this, they can recover that via a civil action. And in any event, he wasn't charged with illegally accessing a computer system, he was charged with illegally intercepting electronic communication.

          To the degree that the government is handing over the money, the question remains. I don't know if it's an unrelated out-of-court agreement with the hospital to avoid litigation, however. The wording in the article wasn't clear.

          2. The hospital didn't hand out the data. It was stolen. It's still theft even if I leave the door wide open. It wasn't his. He has it, as a result of his actions.

          True. The question is what exactly the software did and how it works. A hospital employee shouldn't be able to install software on a department's computers at all. So what happened? Is it just really good spyware, able to avoid all the protections they had in place? Or is it that they didn't have any protections in place at all? Did the employee specifically download and run the attachment, regardless of what she thought it was? Or was it something that simply installed itself?

          The answers to those questions don't matter in terms of what the man did, but they do matter. There are extremely strict laws on the books about protecting patient data. If this is a symptom of their failure to do so, they could easily end up on the wrong side of legal action by either the government or the patients whose data was disseminated. I've no doubt that's what the OP was referring to when he said they should be paying, not getting paid. We don't have all the facts by any means, but it sounds like their security on systems capable of accessing patient records was spotty at best. That shouldn't be any more acceptable than what the man did.

          The opinion of someone who is woefully ignorant of the law, the intent of the law, common law, and basic morality, but yet somehow is an expert on constitutional law.

          Basic morality? Really? What he did was undoubtedly wrong, and he should be punished. But do you really think it's a felony? Should he really be locked up for five years because of it, in addition to a $33,000 fine? For the average American, $33,000 is essentially a year's worth of labor for free. That's a pretty hefty punishment all by itself. Five years? That's the sort of sentence we hand out for burglary or aggravated assault. This is not a man who is a danger to society. At this point we're left simply to hope that the judge is reasonable and there is sufficient leeway in the federal sentencing guidelines that this doesn't turn into a total miscarriage of justice. Surely justice counts among the intent of the law and basically morality, doesn't it?

          Maybe I'm one of these left-wing softy types, but what this guy needs more

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by dissy (172727)

            Five years? That's the sort of sentence we hand out for burglary or aggravated assault. This is not a man who is a danger to society.

            First sentence, I agree. And the amount of jail time is the only thing left actually to question, and I will not be presumptuous enough to correct it.
            Actually most of your post I agree with...

            Second sentence however, no, he clearly IS a danger to society. Not for anything computer related of course. But he is stalking his ex-girlfriend. He most certainly needs punished accordingly.

            Any person that is not capable of controlling their actions based on their emotions is unpredictable and dangerous. On top

          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by ffflala (793437)

            Since when has committing a crime unintentionally ever been a defense?

            Sometimes, but more importantly it is pretty much always a mitigating factor. Your hypothetical person would be charged with reckless homicide, not capital murder (DUI = felony, murder = felony, having a gun during commission of a felony = felony). It sounds like he killed enough people in the anecdote for the differences to be semantic, but it's not nonexistent.

            Intent does matter.

            While intent does matter, intent can be transferable. For example if, intending to kill someone, you shoot at them, miss, and somehow kill forty innocent bystanders instead, your intent will suffice for forty counts of first degree murder.

            Here, the guy intended to stalk and illegally access information from his g/f's home computer. He missed the mark and instead hit a hospital. That he intended specifically to stalk his girlfriend doesn't absolve him of the end result of his actions.

        • What the hell is this supposed to mean? Since when has committing a crime unintentionally ever been a defense?

          Do you need someone to explain to you the difference between a charge of first degree murder and manslaughter? Or are you just being intentionally thick for effect?

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by kharchenko (303729)

          Nobody has gotten killed here - your analogies are completely baseless. What's more, information wasn't actually stolen here. Yes the records were transmitted, and this guy probably glanced over things he shouldn't have been allowed to see. But as far as I understand, he didn't try to distribute this info further, or used it in any way. Most likely he didn't even read the records. So practically, there's no consequential harm with respect to the medical records here.

          I agree what he did (spying on his ex) is

  • by Nomaxxx (1136289) on Friday September 18, 2009 @02:57AM (#29463275) Homepage
    In Belgium, many of the hospitals have most of their computers running Linux...
    • by wvmarle (1070040) on Friday September 18, 2009 @04:14AM (#29463673)

      I'm sure there exists spyware for Linux as well.

      It is a lot harder to get an executable sent over e-mail to run on the system, but it is still possible. Running Linux does NOT make one immune against this kinds of attacks.

      I'm quite sure Linux is easier to secure than Windows, the core error this hospital made was not as much running Windows, as not closing off all access to the Internet. It just doesn't go together with sensitive patient data. Those Linux computers your Belgium hospitals are working with also should be shielded thoroughly from the open Internet.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Deanalator (806515)

      Except that there are plenty of keyloggers, trojans, rootkits etc for linux as well, open source and commercial. Remember that when kiddies scan for weak php code, they will land on a linux box at least 90% of time time.

    • In Belgium, many of the hospitals have most of their computers running Linux...

      Unfortunately, it doesn't mean 'apt-get cure-for-cancer' works.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by OrangeTide (124937)

      It is trivial to angrily write a trojan that infects a girlfriend's Linux machine and sends screen caps via email. You don't need to be root to run something to the effect of xwd | sendmail. All you need to do is to be dumb enough to execute an attachment. That's not a problem unique to Windows, that's a feature of dumb users.

  • What could be worse than a bad breakup?
  • odd (Score:5, Insightful)

    by wizardforce (1005805) on Friday September 18, 2009 @03:35AM (#29463435) Journal

    does anyone else find it odd that the real damage was done to the patients and yet the hospital is being compensated for damages and not the patients? wouldn't the hospital also be liable for the damages considering that theri IT department failed to put up reasonable protection?

    • The company always wins, think of the court system like Vegas, corporations are the house.

      In this case a guy commited an offense against his ex.
      It ended up hurting her hospital's patients.
      Half the blame should go to the hospital for breaking the rules set up so this should be impossible.
      Possibly to the girl as well if she violated company policy in getting the email.
      In the end the hospital gets the money.
      • In reality the girl should be suing the guy for attempted stalking or w/e maybe just get a restraining order. And the patients should be suing the hospital for allowing such a breach in security. And if the girl broke company policy the hospital should be firing/charging the girl.

        But that just makes too much sense...
    • Re:odd (Score:4, Insightful)

      by malkavian (9512) on Friday September 18, 2009 @04:37AM (#29463779) Homepage

      The hospital will be compensated for material damages. They are bound by law to inform the patients that their data has been released. Those patients will take up law suits against the hospital, which will be investigated, and they will recieve large amounts of compensation.
      Odds on, if you look at the structure, you'll see the IT dept is over worked and under funded, so the real responsibility lies with the Directorate of the hospital, penny pinching on a department they don't see as shiny enough to be well funded.

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Memroid (898199)

      and yet the hospital is being compensated for damages and not the patients

      Does this remind anyone of the RIAA?

  • Why don't they fine the guy $100 for trying to spy on his girlfriend, and why don't they fine the woman $50,000 in damages and fire ther for violating hospital security procedures (at least two of them: viewing private Email on work computers, clicking on executable attachments)?

    Why don't they fine the hospital $1Million for not properly protecting the privacy of their patients?

    Did the guy intend to spy on the medical procedures of those patients? No!

    Suppose you're walking around as a tourist somewhere happ

  • Seems like everyone is discussing the more technical details of this incident. I, for one, am much more "interested" in the moralistic side. I find it lowlife that this scumbag could not be a man enough to realize the woman wanted to fuck someone else, and was so desperate as to reduce himself to a stalker, and not even a stalker that you can actually identify as a stalker, but a stalker that is himself "stealthy". After all, planting spyware, provided you don't get caught, does not get more anonymous than

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