Phishing Attack in Texas Exposes PHI of 39K Patients | Healthcare Informatics Magazine | Health IT | Information Technology Skip to content Skip to navigation

Phishing Attack in Texas Exposes PHI of 39K Patients

May 1, 2015
by Rajiv Leventhal
| Reprints

The Austin, Tx.-based Seton Family of Hospitals, part of Ascension health system, has acknowledged a phishing attack on its organization, resulting in the potential exposure of some personal health information for approximately 39,000 patients.

Seton said that it experienced an email phishing attack on December 4, 2014, which targeted the user names and passwords of Seton employees. After launching an investigation, which included computer forensics experts for assistance, it was determined in February of 2015 that the employee e-mail accounts subject to the phishing attempt contained some personal health information for approximately 39,000 patients.

The personal health information in the email accounts included demographic information (i.e., name, address, gender, date of birth, etc.), medical record numbers, insurance information, limited clinical information and, in some cases, Social Security numbers. The hackers did not gain access to individual medical records or billing records, Seton officials said.

Seton said that it is taking steps to mitigate this incident by notifying affected individuals via letter, posting a substitute notice and providing notice to prominent media outlets in the area. Identity monitoring and protection services are being offered free of charge for those whose Social Security numbers have been affected by the incident. Additionally, Seton is working with its e-mail service provider to evaluate ways to enhance its security program.

The healthcare industry is certainly no stranger to phishing attacks. In a recent blog post for Healthcare Informatics, Mac McMillan, CEO of the Austin, Tx.-based CynergisTek and current chair of the HIMSS Privacy & Security Policy Task Force, said, “many of the more serious hacks or malware attacks were preceded by a phishing effort first. We saw random phishing attacks, directed spear phishing and combinations. These attacks are often successful because they prey on peoples emotions, desires, in some cases fantasies, but more often than not, it’s the expectation that recipients are tired, busy or in a hurry and not paying attention.” 

Get the latest information on Health IT and attend other valuable sessions at this two-day Summit providing healthcare leaders with educational content, insightful debate and dialogue on the future of healthcare and technology.

Learn More

Topics

News

Healthcare Execs Anticipate High Cost Returns from Predictive Analytics Use

Healthcare executives are dedicating budget to predictive analytics, and are forecasting significant cost savings in return, according to new research from the Illinois-based Society of Actuaries.

Adam Boehler Tapped by Azar to Serve as Senior Value-Based Care Advisor

Adam Boehler, currently director of CMMI, has also been named the senior advisor for value-based transformation and innovation, HHS Secretary Alex Azar announced.

Vivli Launches Clinical Research Data-Sharing Platform

On July 19 a new global data-sharing and analytics platform called Vivli was unveiled. The nonprofit group’s mission is to promote, coordinate and facilitate scientific sharing and reuse of clinical research data.

Survey: More Effective IT Needed to Improve Patient Safety

In a Health Catalyst survey, physicians, nurses and healthcare executives said ineffective information technology, and the lack of real-time warnings for possible harm events, are key obstacles to achieving their organizations' patient safety goals.

Physicians Still Reluctant to Embrace Virtual Tech, Survey Finds

While consumers and physicians agree that virtual healthcare holds great promise for transforming care delivery, physicians still remain reluctant to embrace the technologies, according to a new Deloitte Center for Health Solutions survey.

Geisinger, AstraZeneca Partner on Asthma App Suite

Geisinger has partnered with pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca to create a suite of products that integrate into the electronic health record and engage asthma patients and their providers in co-managing the disease.