Emergence Health Network Cyberattack Exposes 11,000 Records

Another HIPAA-covered entity has reported being targeted by hackers: The Emergence Health Network cyberattack has resulted in 11,000 patient records being exposed to cybercriminals. Social Security numbers and dates of birth were exposed in the security breach.

11,000 Patients Affected by Emergence Health Network Cyberattack

The latest healthcare cyberattack to be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights has affected patients of Emergence Health Network’s (EHN) El Paso Center for Mental Health/Intellectual Disabilities (Formerly known as El Paso MHMR and Life Management Center).

A third party (or third parties) is understood to have gained access to one of the healthcare provider’s servers and may have viewed the Protected Health Information of as many as 11,000 individuals. A number of Internet-connected servers are used by EHN, although only one of those servers was accessed.

The servers are connected to the Internet in order to allow patient services to be provided, although patinet data are protected from being viewed by unauthorized individuals. It is not clear at this stage how access to the server was gained and an investigation into the security breach is ongoing.

The data security incident was first uncovered on August 18 of this year; however initial investigations have revealed that the server was potentially first accessed by an unknown individual in 2012. In order to determine the extent of the breach, EHN hired an independent security expert to conduct an analysis of the affected server.

Medical records were not compromised in the incident as they were securely stored in a separate system, although some data classed as Protected Health Information (PHI) and Personally Identifiable Information (PII) under HIPAA Rules was exposed in the breach. Some of that data was highly sensitive and could potentially have been used inappropriately, although at this stage no evidence of improper use of data has been discovered by EHN.

The data exposed in the security breach included patient names and addresses, and the location that medical services were accessed. Social Security numbers and birth dates were also exposed in the incident. This information is often sought by cyber criminals in order to commit identity theft.

The affected server was taken offline as soon as the breach was discovered, and it is not believed there is any risk of more information being exposed or of other systems being compromised. That said, the 11,000 patients who have been affected should take precautions to prevent them from suffering identity theft and credit fraud.

Patients have been advised to obtain credit reports from each of the three credit reference agencies: Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. These reports should be carefully checked for signs of suspicious activity.  If any sign of fraudulent activity is discovered, a report should be filed with the local police department and banks and credit card companies should be alerted. A credit freeze should also be placed on accounts to prevent any further losses from being suffered.

In response to the Emergence Health Network cyberattack the organization will be “taking steps to keep this from happening again by using more secure methods for transmitting, maintaining, and safeguarding your protected health information.”

Author: Richard Anderson

Richard Anderson is the Editor-in-Chief of NetSec.news