Break-In at Medical Group Nets Data on Thousands of Patients

Data for up to 185,000 current and former patients of San Jose Medical Group stolen during break-in

More and more companies have taken similar actions, including encrypting databases, to make sure their computer systems are secure, Gibbons said. But as this -- the latest in a string of consumer information thefts that has plagued even banks such as Wells Fargo -- illustrates, it can be hard to protect a person's privacy if computerized records fall into the wrong hands.

''Generally, hospitals are very sensitive about not disclosing patient information,'' Gibbons said. But ''if you have someone bent on stealing information and if they walked off with some computers, that's difficult.''