Report: Federal Health Insurance Website Vulnerable to Attack

Millions of Americans use to obtain health insurance. Now, a new report shows the Web portal experienced 316 security-related incidents in about 18 months.

Report: Federal Health Insurance Website Vulnerable to Attack Photo (cc) by sun dazed

The Web portal used by millions of Americans to obtain health insurance experienced 316 security-related incidents in a period of about 18 months, a new report shows. And the site remains vulnerable to attack.

The report — “ Actions Needed to Enhance Information Security and Privacy Controls” — was released Wednesday by the U.S. Government Accountability Office.

The GAO states:

“According to GAO’s review of CMS records for this period [between October 2013 and March 2015], the majority of these incidents involved such things as electronic probing of CMS systems by potential attackers …”

The GAO found no evidence that an outside attacker had succeeded in obtaining sensitive data, although the agency identified weaknesses “that could place sensitive information at risk of unauthorized disclosure, modification or loss.”

Such weaknesses involve the Federal Data Services Hub, a key part of the system that the Associated Press describes as “operating behind the scenes,” pinging other “federal agencies such as Social Security, IRS and Homeland Security to verify the personal details of consumers.”

The AP adds:

“’s data hub is one of the administration’s major technology projects, and has generally been regarded as successful.”

In a separate report that was not made public, the GAO recommended 27 actions to address weaknesses.

The GAO is an independent agency that serves as a watchdog for Congress by investigating how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars.

The GAO’s findings are based on a review of the records of the U.S. Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services, or CMS, the federal agency that manages

The portal was established under the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010 — the federal law also known as Obamacare — to offer subsidized private health insurance to people who do not have access to insurance through an employer.

The AP reports that the GAO’s review stemmed from federal lawmakers asking President Barack Obama’s administration for more detail about security issues. The administration has accepted the GAO’s recommendations for improvements, according to the AP report.

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Karla Bowsher
Karla Bowsher
I’m a freelance journalist and former newspaper reporter who has covered both personal and public finance. I've worked for a top 50 major metro daily and a community newspaper as well as ... More


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