Docs can become fodder for hackers if careless

The invidious hacking of the SingHealth database, which was clarified by the authorities as a less ominous stealthy theft of mainly names, identity card numbers and addresses, rather than of medical histories, diagnoses and treatments, should not placate our fears.

Given a toehold through the door, a full frontal assault will not be far in the future.

When doctors have to claim patient expenses on Medisave, the Community Health Assist Scheme and pioneer generation portals, even a simple change of a single day in the birth date of patients causes non-recognition and non-validity of the claim.

Hackers, by planting a simple algorithm to innocuously change the birth dates of patients by a single digit, can thus make this system almost frustratingly useless for general practitioners.

On the national scale, whole medical databases can be made inaccessible by just such a simple hacking manoeuvre, and if good old-fashioned note-taking by doctors are dispensed with for a total reliance on an electronic record, total chaos and havoc will be the resultant consequence.

Mr Julian Ho, with 20 years of IT and cyber-security experience (End users the weakest link in cyber security; July 23), states the stark and dangerous truth: People, like doctors inputting and accessing electronic records in the national database, will become fodder for miscreant hackers.

Healing is our business and great care, detail and pride are put into doctors' patient treatments, whereas the electronic database is secondary in our thoughts, and thus likely to be dealt with in a more perfunctory or even negligent manner.

How much responsibility can then be pinned on doctors if they are careless and it leads to their portals being the entry point for a nationwide hacking attack?

Yik Keng Yeong (Dr)

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 24, 2018, with the headline 'Docs can become fodder for hackers if careless'. Print Edition | Subscribe