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BREAKING: Massive Cyber Attack at Banner Health Affects 3.7M Individuals

August 3, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
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Phoenix-based Banner Health, one of the largest healthcare systems in the U.S., announced on August 3 that it is notifying approximately 3.7 million individuals about a breach in which cyber attackers gained unauthorized access to computer systems that process payment card data at food and beverage outlets at certain Banner locations.

The incident was discovered by Banner Health on July 7, though the attack was initiated on June 17, according to the health system’s press release. The attackers targeted payment card data, including cardholder name, card number, expiration date and internal verification code, as the data was being routed through affected payment processing systems. Payment cards used at food and beverage outlets at certain Banner Health locations during the two-week period between June 23 and July 7 may have been affected. The investigation revealed that the attack did not affect payment card payments used to pay for medical services, the organization said.

Then, on July 13, Banner Health learned that the cyber attackers may have indeed gained unauthorized access to patient information, health plan member and beneficiary information, as well as information about physician and healthcare providers. The patient and health plan information may have included names, birthdates, addresses, physicians’ names, dates of service, claims information, and possibly health insurance information and social security numbers, if provided to Banner Health. The physician and provider information may have included names, addresses, dates of birth, social security numbers and other identifiers they may use.

How the hack expanded from certain food and beverage outlets to patient information systems is currently unclear. But, Banner has mailed letters to 3.7 million patients, health plan members and beneficiaries, food and beverage customers and physicians and healthcare providers related to  the attack.

The health system said that it “worked quickly to block the attackers and is working to enhance the security of its systems in order to help prevent this from happening in the future.” Banner is also working with the payment card networks so banks that issue payment cards can be made aware and initiate heightened monitoring on the affected cards.

Banner Health is offering a free one-year membership in monitoring services to patients, health plan members, health plan beneficiaries, physicians and healthcare providers, and food and beverage customers who were affected by this incident.

The health system owns and operates 29 acute care hospitals, Banner Health Network, Banner University Medicine, Banner Medical Group, long-term care centers, outpatient surgery centers and an array of other services, including family clinics, home care and hospice services, pharmacies and a nursing registry. Banner Health is spread throughout seven states: Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, Nebraska, Nevada and Wyoming

“Banner is committed to maintaining the privacy and security of information of our patients, employees, plan members and beneficiaries, customers at our food and beverage outlets, as well as our providers,” Peter S. Fine, Banner Health president and CEO, said in a statement.

Healthcare Informatics will continue to update this story as it unfolds.

 

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Phishing Attack at Georgia Health System May Have Exposed 400K Patients’ Data

August 20, 2018
by Heather Landi, Associate Editor
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Augusta University Health System, based in Augusta, Georgia, has reported that a phishing attack on email accounts that occurred last fall may have led to the unauthorized access of protected health information (PHI) of approximately 417,000 individuals.

In a notice posted on its website, Augusta University officials said the organization was targeted by a series of fraudulent emails on Sept. 10-11, 2017. “These sophisticated phishing emails solicited usernames and passwords, giving attackers access to a small number of internal email accounts,” officials said.

A second phishing attack occurred July 11, 2018, and appears to be smaller in scope, Augusta University President Brooks Keel, Ph.D., wrote in a separate message.

Augusta University officials said that, upon recognizing the nature of the attack, security leaders took action to stop the intrusion, including disabling the impacted email accounts, requiring password changes for the compromised accounts, and maintaining heightened monitoring of the accounts to ensure that no other suspicious activity was taking place.

On July 31, 2018, investigators determined that email accounts accessed earlier by an unauthorized user may have given them access to the personal and PHI of approximately 417,000 individuals.

While the investigation verified that personal information was contained in compromised email accounts, no misuse of information has been reported at this time, Keel wrote in his message.

In some cases, patient information that may have been contained in compromised email accounts included patient names and one or more of the following: addresses, dates of birth, medical record numbers, medical information, treatment information, surgical information, diagnoses, lab results, medications, dates of service and/or insurance information.

For a small percentage, information that may have been viewed included a Social Security number and/or driver’s license number, organization officials said.

Keel also wrote that IT staff reacted quickly to contain the July 11, 2018, attack. “The number of email accounts involved in this attack is fewer than those in the September attack. The investigation into the consequences of that attack is still underway,” Keel wrote.

 In response to the incident, the organization has taken or will be promptly initiating several actions to protect against future incidents, Keel stated. Organization leadership created a new position of vice president for audit, compliance, ethics and risk management to bring “fresh leadership and direction to compliance functions.”

The organization also is implementing multifactor authentication for off-campus email and system access, reviewing and adopting solutions to limit email retention, and leadership is taking steps to implement a policy banning PHI in email communications.

In addition, Augusta University officials said the organization is employing software to screen emails for PHI or personally identifiable information (PII) to prevent them from sending, increasing employee training in preventing security breaches, and enhancing compliance-related policies and procedures.

Augusta University will offer free credit monitoring services for one year to individuals whose Social Security number was included in the compromised email accounts.

More From Healthcare Informatics

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PODCAST: AHA's Cybersecurity Leader John Riggi on the Evolving Cyber Threats Facing Healthcare

August 17, 2018
by Heather Landi, Associate Editor
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Riggi believes the cyber threats against healthcare are increasing in severity, complexity and frequency
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Within the healthcare industry, cyber threats are constantly evolving as the threat landscape changes, and executive leaders at patient care organizations all face the same daunting challenge of protecting information systems and patient data.

A recent report found that cyberthreats are continuing to increase and shift, and even though ransomware attacks are significantly declining, cyberattacks overall are on the rise. A Protenus Breach Barometer report found that 3 million patient records were breached in the second quarter of 2018 alone. At the same time, an IBM Security study found that the cost of a data breach for healthcare organizations continues to rise, from $380 per record last year to $408 per record this year. Overall, the healthcare industry continues to incur the highest cost for data breaches compared to any other industry.

Another report based on a survey of hackers uncovered some alarming results: about a quarter of hackers surveyed say they can complete a breach of a hospital or healthcare organization under five hours.

On top of all that, recent high-profile healthcare cybersecurity incidents in the past few months serve as a stark reminder that the healthcare industry continues to be a ripe target for attacks. One cyber attack on Singapore’s public health system, SingHealth, breached the records of 1.5 million people and targeted the country’s prime minister. The breach impacted about a quarter of Singapore’s population of 5.6 million people.

John Riggi, who serves in the newly created role of senior advisor for cybersecurity and risk with the American Hospital Association (AHA), sees the  cyber threats against healthcare increasing in severity, complexity and frequency. Prior to his role at AHA, Riggi spent nearly 30 years with the FBI, including in the cyber division.

Riggi dives into the evolving cyber threats facing the healthcare industry right now, including sophisitcated criminal organizations, nation-state actors and cryptocurrency mining malware. Case in point, the incident of cryptocurrency mining on healthcare networks and other critical infrastructure networks increased by 1,000 percent from late 2017 to the present, Riggi says. He also discusses the implications of recent high-profile cyber incidents such as the hack at SingHealth.

The podcast runs about 13 minutes in length. You can listen to all Healthcare Informatics podcasts right here.


Related Insights For: Cybersecurity

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Who Can Healthcare Trust When Ransomware Hits?

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WannaCry and Petya caused business impact for several organizations and in both cases the damage was largely mitigated across the industry. This information is widely known.

What is not widely known is what the role of information sharing was between private industry and the public sector specifically between the NH-ISAC Threat Intelligence Committee members (TIC) and the HHS Healthcare Cybersecurity Communications and Integration Center (HCCIC).

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