Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

Security weaknesses in file-sharing methods used in clinical trials revealed

Date:
February 17, 2011
Source:
Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute
Summary:
Patients who participate in clinical trials expect that their personal information will remain confidential, but a recent study found that the security practices used to transfer and share sensitive files were inadequate.

Patients who participate in clinical trials expect that their personal information will remain confidential, but a recent study led by Dr. Khaled El-Emam, Canada Research Chair in Electronic Health Information at the CHEO Research Institute, found that the security practices used to transfer and share sensitive files were inadequate.

The two-part study, entitled "How Strong Are Passwords Used to Protect Personal Health Information in Clinical Trials?," published February 16 in the Journal of Medical Internet Research, showed that the majority of passwords used to protect files are poorly constructed and easily cracked using commercial password recovery tools. Study coordinator interviews indicated that electronic information shared in the context of clinical trials may put personal health information at risk.

"The patients in these trials expect that their personal information will be protected," said Dr. El-Emam. "This is critical for maintaining the trust of clinical trial participants, and the public in general."

In the course of the study, passwords for 14 out of 15 sensitive files transmitted by email were successfully decoded. Of these 14, 13 contained sensitive health information and other potentially identifying factors such as name of study site, dates of birth, initials, and gender. File sharing practices were also found to be insecure, with unencrypted patient information being shared via email and posted on shared drives with common passwords.

"Cracking the passwords proved to be trivial," said Dr. El-Emam. "Choices included passwords as simple as car makers (e.g., "nissan"), and common number sequences (e.g., "123"). It was easy for the password recovery tools to guess them."

Poor security practices can be harmful to patients participating in clinical trials, who are at risk of being identified and possibly stigmatized by the disclosure of personal health information. There is also a potential for both medical and non-medical identity theft. In the context of international clinical trials, inadvertent disclosure of personal health information is considered a data breach in countries like the United States, which can lead to penalties in some states.

Dr. El-Emam believes that with some effort file sharing in clinical trials can be made secure: "There are protocols and tools that can be employed for secure file sharing. It may take more effort on the part of those who conduct clinical trials, but the alternative would not be acceptable."

Dr. El-Emam makes several recommendations, including enforcement of strong passwords and encryption algorithms, encrypting all information sent via email including site queries, and minimizing password sharing.

The study was financed by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council of Canada (NSERC) and the Canada Research Chair program.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Journal Reference:

  1. Khaled El Emam, Katherine Moreau, Elizabeth Jonker. How Strong are Passwords Used to Protect Personal Health Information in Clinical Trials? Journal of Medical Internet Research, 2011; 13 (1) DOI: 10.2196/jmir.1335

Cite This Page:

Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute. "Security weaknesses in file-sharing methods used in clinical trials revealed." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 17 February 2011. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110216123543.htm>.
Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute. (2011, February 17). Security weaknesses in file-sharing methods used in clinical trials revealed. ScienceDaily. Retrieved August 27, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110216123543.htm
Children's Hospital of Eastern Ontario Research Institute. "Security weaknesses in file-sharing methods used in clinical trials revealed." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2011/02/110216123543.htm (accessed August 27, 2014).

Share This




More Computers & Math News

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

Hackerspace Provides Hackers Creative Haven

Hackerspace Provides Hackers Creative Haven

AP (Aug. 27, 2014) HeatSync Labs, a so-called hackerspace in Mesa, Arizona provides members and the public alike a space to allow their creative juices to flow and make their tech dreams into a reality. (Aug 27) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Instagram's Hyperlapse Brings Pricy Stabilization To Phones

Instagram's Hyperlapse Brings Pricy Stabilization To Phones

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) Instagram announced a new video stabilization app called Hyperlapse on Tuesday, bringing a high-end filming technique to peoples' iPhones. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
ICREACH: NSA Built A Google Of Americans' Info

ICREACH: NSA Built A Google Of Americans' Info

Newsy (Aug. 26, 2014) The Intercept published an article Monday profiling what the online publication called NSA's very own Google of personal data. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com
Australian Airlines Relax Phone Ban Too

Australian Airlines Relax Phone Ban Too

Reuters - Business Video Online (Aug. 26, 2014) Qantas and Virgin say passengers can use their smartphones and tablets throughout flights after a regulator relaxed a ban on electronic devices during take-off and landing. As Hayley Platt reports the move comes as the two domestic rivals are expected to post annual net losses later this week. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:
from the past week

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins