January 29, 2023
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Editorial: Anthem data breach makes business wary


Most cybersecurity breaches are ho-hum affairs.

The email arrives, the new credit cards come via FedEx and life goes on.

But health care giant Anthem’s recent announcement that something like 80 million accounts may have been hacked gave us pause.

For one thing, the employees at Pacific Coast Business Times are insured through Blue Cross of California, making it likely that our personal information is now floating around in cyberspace.

For another, it’s an unusually large number that reflects two things that are happening in our society without any public debate.

First is the consolidation of basic businesses into larger and larger organizations. Not so very long ago, Blue Cross of California was an independent entity, and a nonprofit at that. Then it became part of WellPoint, a largely regional insurer.

Now, as part of Anthem, it is one of a handful of organizations that insures most American families. What has happened in health care is happening in countless other industries with the effect that more and more of our personal data is concentrated in fewer and fewer hands.

Meanwhile, the Obama Administration proposed Feb. 11 to create a new federal agency to monitor cybersecurity, and of course the proposal included throwing more taxpayer dollars at the problem.

We’ll echo our colleagues on the editorial board at Bloomberg News and wonder if creating another big federal bureaucracy is really the best way to deal with cyber threats, particularly those in the private sector.

We may have reached a point where so much data is concentrated in so many places that it is just too easy to hack. Over the long run it may make more sense to decentralize and deepen security for our personal data at an individual level.

Perhaps rather than turning again to government for a solution that is going to be expensive, clunky and inevitably prone to break down, it may make sense to declare that the era of “big data” is over. Time for smart data to take over.