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Vulnerable: Patient databases are wide open to hacking

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WHAT: The push to computerize patient data nationally is being built on top of a system already notorious for privacy problems, according to reports from the inspector general of the Health and Human Services Department.

HOW: The investigation audited computer security at seven large hospitals in different states and found 151 major vulnerabilities, including easy passwords, unencrypted laptops and not automatically logging off inactive users.

WHY: ID thieves covet health care records, because they contain names, birth dates and Social Security numbers and other personal information that can be used to construct a false identity or collect fraudulent Medicare charges.