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U.S. Senator Calls for Cybersecurity Bill Vote in Wake of Excellus Breach

September 14, 2015
by Rajiv Leventhal
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In wake of the recent cyber attack on health insurer Excellus BlueCross BlueShield, U. S. Sen. Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.) has urged Congress to bring a cybersecurity bill to the floor and to prioritize the need for universal data breach notification standards.

Schumer’s push comes after reports that the Rochester, N.Y.-based Excellus announced it discovered last month that it experienced a data breach in December 2013 that compromised the personal information of approximately 10 million people. Excellus president and CEO Christopher Booth said in a message to customers posted on the organization’s website that an investigation determined hackers may have gained unauthorized access to individuals’ information, which could include name, date of birth, Social Security number, mailing address, telephone number, member identification number, financial account information and claims information.

This hacking incident marks the latest in a number of high profile cyber attacks on healthcare organizations, including the massive hack on Anthem in February, which exposed approximately 80 million records, as well as a large data breach at UCLA Health Systems in July which potentially affected 4.5 million people. Schumer said that strengthening cyber protections is necessary, especially with the proliferation of companies using online servers to house sensitive customer data such as financial records, health information, and Social Security numbers. Last year alone, one third of New York residents fell victim to a data breach of some sort, Schumer noted in a press release.

According to The Hill, whether the legislation, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act of 2015 (CISA, S. 754)), sees time on the floor, remains to be seen. The bill would allow the sharing of Internet traffic information between the U.S. government and technology and manufacturing companies. The bill was introduced in the U.S. Senate in July 2014, but has not yet been considered or voted upon by the full Senate. The Hill reports that the Senate likely won’t move on CISA before October at the earliest.

 “Excellus BlueCross BlueShield now joins a long list of companies that have been the victim of a cyberattack, including Target, JP Morgan, SONY, and countless others. The fact that this data breach was not discovered for 19 months just goes to show how sophisticated online hackers are and how much work we have to do when it comes to protecting our personal information,” Schumer said in a statement. “So I am urging my colleagues in Congress to strengthen consumer cyber protections and require companies to notify their customers if there has been a breach of their personal information in a timely matter so they can take action to ensure they are not the victim of identity theft. In addition, we need intelligence and law enforcement agencies to work together to share information of potential cyber threats to prevent another attack. When it comes to the personal information of New Yorkers—be it their Social Security number, their health records, or financial information—we can never be too safe.”

Schumer said if the reports of Excellus BlueCross BlueShield are verified and the personal information of 10 million customers is exposed, it will be one of the largest widespread cyber breaches in recent memory.  Schumer has long advocated for increased cyber security. In July of this year, he urged the Commerce Department to rewrite a proposed rule that would limit private companies from using software to test the strength of their networks. Schumer said preventing companies from testing their networks would leave them exposed to a potential attack. At Schumer’s urging, the Commerce Department announced they would rewrite the rule in consultation with cybersecurity experts to ensure companies would be able to use software to test the security of their networks.




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