The Obamacare exchange's lack of security

LOS ANGELES, October 17, 2013—Week 3 of the Obamacare exchange rollout is the same old song: glitches remain, error messages abound, lags are prevalent, and there is very little evidence that anyone has actually purchased insurance.

An even larger problem is the lack of security on Healthcare.gov and the State exchange sites.

House Intelligence Committee chairman Mike Rogers (R-MI), wrote an editorial in USA Today alerting America that all those glitches may simply be a precursor to larger security problems.

The Federal Data Services Hub (Hub) is a central component to the Obamacare exchanges. Hub connects seven different government agencies and establishes new access points to American’s most sensitive and personal information. Rep. Rogers explains, “Social Security numbers, employment information, birth dates, health records and tax returns are among the personal data that will be transmitted to this hub, consolidating an unprecedented amount of information. Every shred of data one would need to steal your identity or access your confidential credit information would be available at the fingertips of a skilled hacker, producing a staggering security threat.”

The security firm McAfee has issued similar warnings about the State-run exchanges vulnerability to phishing scams, where hackers mimic the exchange portals in order to easily harvest the information that unsuspecting users enter because they think it is the legitimate site. John McAfee, the former head of the company, even went so far as to call the exchange sites “a hacker’s wet dream.”

Al Pascual, a security, risk and fraud analyst at Javelin said that theft of personal data is now a digital endeavor, with hackers now being better at identifying targets and mining data. “Criminals no longer root through the trash or steal mail to collect personally identifiable information, Fraudsters know where to go to get it.”


SEE RELATED: This is not the Obamacare Exchange you were looking for


In this case they don’t have to go get it—our government is handing it to them on a silver platter. How is it possible that a system that cost more than $400 million dollars is so poorly designed, executed, and insecure? Amazon.com and Facebook are transactional sites with similar infrastructure requirements, and neither one cost that much to build.  In the case of Amazon, security is top notch. Why didn’t President Barack Obama send Health and Human Services Secy Kathleen Sebelius to his friend Jeff Beezos so he could show her how it’s supposed to be done?

Reuters reported back in August that the security protocols were months behind, and that deadlines for security protocol testing were being missed. As more news organizations jump on the story, we are bound to discover more corners that were cut, and just how much of that $400-million plus was squandered.

Electronic malfeasance is one thing; human duplicity is quite another. The old-fashioned fraudsters and hucksters still exist, and Obamacare is granting them opportunity to break new ground.

Early in Week 1 of the exchange rollout, Sally C. Pipes pointed out the massive taxpayer waste being poured into the Navigator program: a requirement in Obamacare where individuals are hired to promote the exchanges and to assist people in signing up. “The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) recently gifted Obamacare’s ‘navigator’ program an additional $13 million in funding[…]. This $13 million is on top of $54 million already allocated to the program. But both eight-figure expenditures represent colossal wastes of taxpayer money. The publicly funded navigator program is entirely unnecessary—and ripe for fraud and abuse.”

As if on cue, Fox News reported that Southern United Neighborhoods, a group formed from the ruins of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) has received navigator funding to the tune of $486,123. Congress made concerted efforts to cut ACORN and its affiliates off from government funding because of their questionable employees and activities. Thanks to Obamacare, it looks like they are back in business.

The Weekly Standard reported today that the Department of Health and Human Services is under new scrutiny for not crediting the source of a web script they pulled to use on the Healthcare.gov site. “The latest indication of the haphazard way in which Healthcare.gov was developed is the uncredited use of a copyrighted web script for a data function used by the site, a violation of the licensing agreement for the software.”

Missed deadlines resulting in a faulty, insecure site, questionable organizations given taxpayer money, and now pirated code? These are the makings of a slapstick comedy, not a program that is supposed to manage one-sixth of the U.S. economy.

For the icing on this cake, the Daily Caller reported that Kansas Affordable Care Act navigator Rosilyn Wells has an outstanding arrest warrant in that state. These are only the incidents that are being given press—there is no telling what is being swept under the rug in order to convince the public that everything is working as planned with the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. The spin coming from Washington is that all this is par for the course with any massive implementation, and we just need to give it time.

Americans are not only giving it time—they are giving it a time out. According to the Washington Post, the week after the October 1 rollout of Healthcare.gov has seen the number of visitors plummet to 88 percent. With the holiday season approaching, and other local and national concerns, I hope the Obama administration doesn’t expect to get that attention back.

Will all the President’s horses and all the President’s men be able to put Obamacare back together again? Having done such a slovenly job with the original build, this is highly doubtful.


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Jennifer Oliver O'Connell

Jennifer Oliver O’Connell is the "In My Orbit" columnist for Washington Times Communities, writes on Los Angeles Faith and Community for Examiner.com, teaches Yoga, and coaches on careers and reinvention.

You can keep up with what's in Jennifer's orbit through her As the Girl Turns website: (http://asthegirlturns.com).

Contact Jennifer Oliver O'Connell

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