Are Your Before and After Photos Secure with Your Surgeon?

If you’ve heard about it, you might be wondering: did hackers really steal plastic surgery before and after photos? Indeed they have. On a couple of well documented occasions now, hackers have been able to steal personal data for nefarious reasons. Does that change how you should interact with plastic surgeons or what you should expect from them? Not necessarily.

We live in an age of information security (or, sometimes, lack thereof). It feels like there’s always some story about security breaches or hacks in the news. Whether it’s from Equifax or your local shopping center, it seems as though there are threats everywhere. That’s why you might be surprised about this latest hacking: did hackers really steal plastic surgery before and after photos?

Yes. Yes they did.

Hackers Really Did Steal Plastic Surgery Before and After Photos

At first, this might seem more like some kind of joke—a harmless prank. It’s easy to dismiss plastic surgery before and after photos as a kind of just desserts: you tried to hide something and now it’s public. But there are a couple of very serious concerns when it comes to this type of data:

  • Before and after images are essentially medical information; therefore, they are confidential and patients have every right to keep them that way
  • These types of before and after images also often contain nudity; this type of nudity, shared without the consent of the individual, is incredibly problematic (to put it mildly).

There are other problems here, but hopefully you’re beginning to get the idea.

How Did This Happen?

The truth is that there’s no information security system that is 100% safe. Most people live in the 90% safe range (please don’t take this number literally). In the most recent hack, a London plastic surgeon was targeted and both information and photographs were stolen. The hack is being investigated by the Metropolitan Police.

It’s worth pointing out that it’s very likely the surgeon in question did nothing wrong. Cases such as these are usually quite different than what happened with Equifax, for example. That said, it’s never a bad idea to ask your plastic surgeons what kind of precautions they take with their before and after photos and data storage.

Authorities are still gathering data on this particular incursion to find out precisely what happened and how it might be prevented in the future. There’s little doubt that this will get the full attention it deserves, as the hackers in question purport to have before and after images that belong to royalty.

How Should Surgeons Prepare for Hacking?

As with any medical business (or small business, really), plastic surgeons should practice good information technology hygiene. This is especially true if a there’s something about the surgeon’s clientele that makes them a tempting target:

  • Wealthy or Influential Patients: Plastic surgery tends to be a relatively expensive venture. And there is no shortage of wealthy patients who are willing to pay top dollar for the best results. Practices that specialize in these types of wealthy patients might be a more tempting target for hackers looking to score an easy payday.
  • Celebrity Patients: On the other hand, sometimes it’s not about wealth. Sometimes it’s about popularity. Surgeons who are exceptionally popular with celebrity patients might have to be extra careful about information security. Sometimes hackers are not looking to steal cash outright—sometimes they are looking to blackmail practices by threatening to release sensitive information. Celebrity before and after photos would certainly qualify.

What is This Scary New World?

You might be reading all this and suddenly be very worried about your information. And while a few basic precautions is never a bad idea (you have to protect your identity, after all), it’s important to remember that the vast majority of plastic surgery patients will likely never have to worry about their data or their photos becoming public. Whether you’re a Clear Lake plastic surgery patient or a Los Angeles cosmetic surgery patient, you should be quite all right.

That’s important for two reasons:

  • Medical information is, by its nature, private. You’re protected by various laws on this front for a reason. Only you have the authority to release information and that’s the way it should be. There’s no exception in the law for plastic surgery. This means that almost all surgeons will be taking steps to ensure your data privacy.
  • Before and after photos are important. That might seem silly, even vain. But they’re actually a very good way to chart your progress. It’s easier to notice where you are if you can see where you’ve been. The point is, before and after photos do an excellent job of showcasing your transformation. That’s not necessarily something you want to lose out on!

No Easy Solutions, but no Cause for Panic

So, should you continue to let surgeons take before and after photos? As always, that’s up to you—and your comfort level. But I will say that there are no easy solutions for hacking, in any context.

Which means that you’re well within your bounds to ask your surgeon about information security. Most surgeons will give you a serious and thoughtful answer. That’s because they, too, read the news. And they don’t want to be the next one in the newspaper, the one everybody’s asking about: did hackers really steal plastic surgery before and after photos from that surgeon?

In the vast majority of cases, your information is going to be safe and sound. But it doesn’t hurt to ask about it!

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