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Major Data Breach at Premera Blue Cross Affects 11M Members

March 17, 2015
by Rajiv Leventhal
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A massive data breach has hit the healthcare industry once again.

Premera Blue Cross, a Mountlake Terrace, Wash.-based health insurer, has acknowledged that it was victim of a cyber attack that could affect 11 million of its customers. On Jan. 29, Premera discovered that cyber attackers had executed a sophisticated attack to gain unauthorized access to its IT systems. The investigation further revealed that the initial attack occurred on May 5.

This incident affected Premera Blue Cross, Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska, and its affiliate brands Vivacity and Connexion Insurance Solutions, Inc. Premera's investigation determined that the attackers may have gained unauthorized access to members' information, which could include members' name, date of birth, Social Security number, mailing address, email address, telephone number, member identification number, bank account information, and claims information, including clinical information. Individuals who do business with Premera and provided the company with their email address, personal bank account number, or Social Security number are also affected, the organization has said. As part of the investigation, Premera is working with the FBI as well as cybersecurity firm Mandiant to conduct a comprehensive investigation of the incident.

The investigation has not determined that any such data was removed from Premera's systems, and the organization also has no evidence to date that such data has been used inappropriately.  The payer is beginning to mail letters to approximately 11 million affected individuals on March 17, and is providing two years of free credit monitoring and identity theft protection services to those individuals. 

"The security of Premera's members' personal information remains a top priority. We at Premera take this issue seriously and sincerely regret the concern it may cause," Jeff Roe, CEO, Premera, said in a statement. "As much as possible, we want to make this event our burden, not that of the affected individuals, by making services available today to help protect people's information."

This attack comes only six weeks after the Indianapolis-based payer Anthem acknowledged that it suffered a massive hack of its IT systems that exposed the personal data of approximately 80 million customers.

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