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Phishing Attack at Baystate Health Potentially Exposes Data of 13K Patients

October 27, 2016
by Rajiv Leventhal
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A phishing scam at Baystate Health in Springfield, Mass. has potentially exposed the personal data of 13,000 patients, according to a privacy statement from the patient care organization and a report from MassLive.

According to the Baystate Health statement, on Aug. 22, Baystate learned that a phishing email had been sent to several of its employees allowing hackers to access some employees’ email accounts. The hacker designed the phishing email to look like an internal Baystate memo to employees.

After an investigation was launched, it was determined that five Baystate employees had responded to the phishing email. It was this that allowed the hackers to gain access to the employees’ email accounts. Some of the emails in those accounts included patient information, and the information in the emails may have included patients’ names and dates of birth, diagnosis, treatment received, medical record number and, in some instances, health insurance identification number. The emails did not contain Social Security numbers, credit card numbers or other financial information, and no patient medical records were accessed. Baystate’s electronic medical records (EMR) systems were not affected either, officials stated.

Baystate announced the breach on Oct. 21 by sending letters to those who may have been affected. The organization stated, “Baystate is committed to protecting private information and is taking this matter very seriously. To help prevent a similar event from happening again, we are increasing our employee training about phishing emails.”

Phishing attacks on employees of health systems continue to plague healthcare organizations and as a result, seem to be getting more attention from hospital IT leaders. The 2016 HIMSS Cybersecurity Survey, for instance, found that these such attacks are the main motivation for increased cybersecurity focus. What’s more, the survey data showed that the most feared future threats include ransomware (69 percent), advanced persistent threat attacks (61 percent), and phishing attacks (61 percent).

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