Obamacare Exchanges Ripe for Hackers, Phishing Scams, Security Experts Warn

Image: Obamacare Exchanges Ripe for Hackers, Phishing Scams, Security Experts Warn

Tuesday, 01 Oct 2013 11:43 PM

By Todd Beamon

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Americans using the Obamacare online exchanges this week should be aware of hackers who may be trying to steal personal information through phishing attacks, cybersecurity experts warned on Tuesday.

"I can say with a high degree of certainty that they will come," Gary Davis, vice president of global consumer marketing at McAfee, told Fox Business. "We live in a world where people look at compelling events and look to do something malicious."

"This is just the nature of the beast," Davis said.

Through phishing, hackers seek to dupe consumers into revealing confidential information like credit-card numbers via phony links or attachments in emails and messages on social media sites.

In addition, the Obamacare exchanges are ripe for hackers because they are not "made up of a single authoritative site where people can go and register for coverage," writes Christopher Budd, threat communications manager for Trend Micro security, in a blog post quoted by NBC News.

Besides the federal site, Healthcare.gov, "people can apply for coverage at sites run by individual states," Budd said in the post. "Then, within each state, there can also be legitimate third-party sites that provide assistance and even broker coverage."

Further, Budd said, when looking on the various insurance sites to select coverage, "they're faced with the challenge that there’s no official marking or labeling that they can look at on a site to know that it’s an officially sanctioned site."

Davis, of McAfee, which is owned by Intel, told Fox: “Identity is a currency like anything else. The more information you have on a consumer, the more you make."

The rollout of the Obamacare exchanges on Tuesday was marred by glitches and other problems — and even President Barack Obama admitted there will be months of "glitches" as the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act rolls out in earnest.

For instance, Healthcare.gov posted error messages for at least 25 of 36 eligible states because of heavy traffic, Fox Business reported.

Maryland delayed the opening of its state-run health-care exchange by four hours because of connectivity problems.

Davis told Fox that phishing scams have become more clever in recent years.

"They're getting very good at what they do," Davis said, referring to hackers. "It's important that consumers take a cautionary note before they do anything. Step back and explore a way to verify this is legitimate, and the source."

More scams are also popping up on such social media sites as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, Fox reported.

Reuters contributed to this report.

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