Dr Lal PathLabs, one of the largest lab testing companies in India, left a huge cache of patient data on a public server for months, TechCrunch has learned.
The lab testing giant, headquartered in New Delhi, serves some 70,000 patients a day, and quickly became a major player in testing patients for COVID-19 after winning approval from the Indian government.
But the company was storing hundreds of large spreadsheets packed with sensitive patient data in a storage bucket, hosted on Amazon Web Services (AWS), without a password, allowing anyone to access the data inside.
Australia-based security expert Sami Toivonen found the exposed data and reported it to Dr Lal PathLabs in September. The company quickly shut down access to the bucket but the company did not reply, Toivonen told TechCrunch.
It’s not known how long the bucket was exposed.
Toivonen said the exposed data amounted to millions of individual patient bookings.
A redacted section of the spreadsheets containing patient data, including name, address, phone number and gender, as well as the test the patient is requesting. (Screenshot: TechCrunch)
The spreadsheets appear to contain daily records of patient lab tests. Each spreadsheet contained a patient's name, address, gender, date of birth and cell number, as well as details of the test that the patient is taking, which could indicate or infer a medical diagnosis or a health condition.
Some booking records contained additional remarks about the patient, such as if they had tested positive for COVID-19.
Toivonen provided TechCrunch with a sample of the files from the exposed server for verification. We reached out to several patients to confirm their details found in the spreadsheet.
"Once I discovered this I was blown away that another publicly listed organization had failed to secure their data, but I do believe that security is a team sport and everyone's responsibility," Toivonen told TechCrunch. "I’m glad that they secured it within a few hours after I contacted them because this kind of exposure with millions of patient records could be misused in so many ways by the malicious actors."
"I was also a little surprised that they didn’t respond to my responsible disclosure," he said.
A spokesperson for Dr Lal PathLabs said it was "investigating" the security lapse but did not answer our questions, including if the company plans to inform its patients of the exposure.