Articles More than 45 million medical scans are in the...

More than 45 million medical scans are in the public domain


A study by CybelAngel, a risk management services company, helped identify a massive leak of confidential information . The aim of the study was to determine the level of security of network attached storages (NAS) and communication using the DICOM protocol (Digital Imaging and COmmunications in Medicine) – the de facto standard that physicians use to transfer and process data.

For six months, analysts scanned about 4.3 billion IP addresses and identified more than 2,140 public servers, which together stored over 45 million unique DICOM images. These servers have been hosted in 67 countries, including the US, UK, France and Germany.

Each medical scan was accompanied by a record containing personal data of patients, as well as information about the state of health, medical care received and payment for such services. In most cases, access to this information did not require a password, and on portals providing registration, it was possible to enter without filling in the login and password fields.

As it turned out, specialized services are also not immune to errors that threaten leaks. One of the providers of paid services for secure hosting of DICOM images forgot to protect the NFS (Network File System) service on port 2049 and eventually leaked about 500 thousand files to the Internet.

The researchers warn that public access to confidential data provokes fraud, extortion and blackmail. A negligent attitude to the protection of such information can also threaten the provider with sanctions – for violation of the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation, EU data protection regulation) or HIPAA (Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, the American Law on the preservation of health insurance and personalized accounting in health care).

According to experts, the following measures will help ensure the security of data storage and transmission:

  • enforcing and enforcing strict policies for accessing NAS devices and file sharing applications;
  • segmentation of networks with Internet-connected medical equipment, limiting access to critical diagnostic tools;
  • conducting audits with contractors to identify cases of violation of industry standards and regulations; carrying out work on assessing data security, identifying risks and priority problems with the involvement of third-party experts.

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