Apple iPad Breach May Raise Flags for Healthcare

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News that an apparent security breach exposed the email addresses and other identifying information of 114,000 Apple iPad owners is not only bad for AT&T the iPads wireless service provider but could also create a roadblock for the iPad entry into privacy-sensitive industry segments like healthcare.

The apparent iPad email breach happened this week and was allegedly perpetrated by a hacking group called Goatse Security. The group managed to discover the integrated circuit card (ICC) ID number on each users SIM card by running a script on AT&Ts network through a bogus iPad UserAgent, which then returned the exposed addresses to the hackers. The emails reportedly exposed included the CEOs of The New York Times and Time Inc., as well as execs at Google and Microsoft.

AT&T has since blocked efforts to repeat this ploy and plugged this one security hole, say reports, although the trust factor associated with Apple and the iPad may be tainted a bit particularly in healthcare, which is a segment that is seen as ripe for tablet PCs. A survey conducted earlier this year by Software Advice, an information portal, and reported in Healthcare IT News, revealed that nearly 35% of healthcare professionals are likely to buy a tablet PC this year. The survey included doctors, nurses, healthcare administrators and even a smattering of students.

Many of these tablets are expected to be used to pull up data on prescription drugs and do email, although most will display lab results and capture and retrieve doctor notes and memos on patients. So, any potential security threat or gap involving patient records sends up an immediate red flag in terms violating HIPPA and other federally-mandated laws protecting patient records and confidentiality.

Apple isnt specifically targeting healthcare or really any other industry outside of general consumers with its innovative iPad tablet PC, although the device does sport some features that make it attractive to those who routinely carry stethoscopes and prescription pads. These features include a Wi-Fi capability (rated in the survey as a top demand), an ergonomic design, and ease of use. What the iPad does not have, at least at this point, is software tailored for the healthcare field, resistance to dust and liquids, and an integrated RFID scanner.

This means, of course, that PC manufacturers that already take a more rugged and industry segmented approach may eventually develop a tablet or two that healthcare professionals can use. These vendors include Panasonic, Toshiba, HP and perhaps even Symbol Technologies, which has a strong track record in rugged and business-minded handhelds.

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