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Medical data being leaked by NHS pagers

(Image credit: Shutterstock.com/sfam_photo)

Data from NHS pagers is being leaked online, exposing patient information to anyone who wants to see it.

Information from hospitals and ambulances across the UK transmitted as radio waves was being intercepted by third parties and broadcast online, according to a report from TechCrunch.

The unencrypted, real-time medical data was then being translated into readable text, which was then sent out across the internet via a webcam. However, as this webcam did not require a password to access, anyone could view the information without going through any kind of login.

Paging Doctor Strong

The system was uncovered by security researcher Daley Borda, who reported the incident to TechCrunch.

Although he reported that the webcam stream was of very poor quality, viewers would still be able to make out lines of texts containing patient information.

This included reports following calls to the 999 emergency number, including one message reporting that a 98-year-old man had fallen at his home, and another message which said a 49-year-old male was complaining of chest pains at a nearby residence.

However both Borda and TechCrunch have been unable to track down the owner of the broadcasting system, leaving both to think it is the work of a local enthusiast unaware of the scale of the operation.

Despite having existed for decades, pagers remain a popular tools in UK medical centres, with their small size and long battery life proving incredibly useful for medics on shift.

As they broadcast at a low frequency, radio waves from pagers can also travel farther and deeper than mobile phones, as many hospitals have reinforced or thickened walls to protect inhabitants from X-rays and other radiation.

The NHS was ordered to stop using pagers by 2021 as the health service looks to continue its modernisation push, but recent government figures claim that around 130,000 devices are still in use today.

Via: TechCrunch