Obamacare Numbers Climb as Security Concerns Grow

Image: Obamacare Numbers Climb as Security Concerns Grow

Tuesday, 19 Nov 2013 10:13 AM

By Elliot Jager

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More than 50,000 people have enrolled and qualified for insurance coverage under Obamacare since the beginning of November, up from the 27,000 for all of October, The New York Times reports.

But, according to the Boston Globe, there is rising bipartisan concern about the security and integrity of the HealthCare.gov website, where consumers are asked to input a wide range of personal data, including Social Security numbers, addresses, income, and medical information.

The newspaper noted that Chinese hackers reportedly tried to break into the site, according to two Democratic senators briefed in a closed-door meeting with administration officials.

Citing Homeland Security Department sources, CNN reported that hackers made more than a dozen failed attempts to break into the Obamacare website.

CNN also reported that federal authorities were looking into a separate report of a denial-of-service "tool" or Trojan program, designed to deluge HealthCare.gov with more requests than it can handle, effectively shutting it down.

The program, called "Destroy Obama Care," was discovered by a blogger on a "torrent" file sharing web page. The tool apparently had not been activated.

Luke Chung, a technical expert, told a House Homeland Security hearing that he believed the capabilities of the HealthCare.gov programmers were professionally deficient, increasing the possibility of security issues.

"When you have an environment where the developer can barely get the website functional, security is way down on the list of things to take care of. Security has to be built in at the very beginning, not at the very end," he testified, according to CNN.

Jason Providakes, manager of the Mitre Corp., which was hired to assess the security of the site, says in remarks prepared for release Tuesday at another Capitol Hill hearing, that his firm has not been asked to perform "'end-to-end' security testing."

"We have no view on the overall 'safety' or security status of HealthCare.gov," he says in the prepared remarks, according to the Globe.

In an Oct. 11 report, Mitre also noted that it was "unable to adequately test the confidentiality and integrity" of the exchange "in full."

Officials from the Department of Health and Human Services are to appear before two House committees on Tuesday to discuss the security of the site.

In the meantime, Patty Unruh, a spokeswoman for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, told the Times, "When consumers fill out their online-marketplace applications, they can trust that the information that they are providing is protected by stringent security standards."

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