Atlanta-based Emory Healthcare has reported that in January a hacker demanded a ransom after accessing one of the health system’s appointment systems and deleting the appointment information database. The hack affected the records of about 80,000 patients.
In a statement posted on its website, Emory Healthcare said it’s Orthopaedics & Spine Center and Brain Health Center within Emory Clinic used an application called Waits & Delays to update patients regarding their appointments. “This database contained limited information used in updating appointment information including patients’ names, dates of birth, contact information, internal medical record numbers, and basic appointment information such as dates of service, physician names and whether patients required imaging (but not the type of imaging). The database did not contain patients’ Social Security numbers, financial information, diagnosis or other electronic medical record information,” the health system stated.
On January 3, 2017, the health system learned that there was unauthorized access to the appointment system around the New Year’s weekend after someone deleted the database and demanded a ransom to restore it.
“We learned that there was another unauthorized access by an independent security research center that searches out vulnerabilities in applications and traditionally notifies the company so that it can be remedied. Once EHC learned that this third-party database was accessed improperly, we immediately initiated an internal investigation, alerted law enforcement and are in the process of notifying impacted patients. Additionally, we are taking this opportunity to further review and refine our security measures relating to internal and third-party computer systems,” the health system stated.
According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights (OCR) data breach portal, the Emory Healthcare breach was submitted on Feb. 21 and affected 79,930 people and was categorized as “hacking/IT incident.”
Emory Healthcare has reported that, currently, there is no indication that any patient information has been used inappropriately.
The incident impacted patients who either had an appointment at the Orthopaedics & Spine Center within Emory Clinic between March 25, 2015 and January 3, 2017, or had an appointment at the Emory Clinic Brain Health Center between December 6, 2016 and January 3, 2017.
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