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Report Indicates Premera Knew of Vulnerabilities Before Breach

March 19, 2015
by Gabriel Perna
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A government agency warned health insurer Premera that its data protection practices were not up to industry standards right before it was victimized by a major cyber attack.

The report, from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management's Office of the Inspector General, was released on Apr. 17, 2014. One month later, Premera was a victim of a cyber attack that affected up to 11 million of its customers, the Mountlake Terrace, Wash.-based company revealed this week. The company had discovered the breach in late January.

The report details Premera’s lack of thorough network security controls, saying the company’s patches were not being implemented in a timely manner and there had been no methodology to ensure unsupported out-of-date software is not utilized; and it had an insecure server configuration. Importantly, the authors said that its vulnerability scan revealed that several servers contained insecure configurations that could allow hackers access to sensitive information. Premera promised to “remediate” that last one by the end of 2014.

Furthermore, the authors of the report noted the physical access controls to the Premera’s data center could have been improved and lack of compliance with its password policy. It also said that Premera’s disaster recovery testing planning methods could be improved, which the insurer disagreed with in its response.

In an interview with The Seattle Times, a spokesperson for the company said the concerns outlined in the audit and the hack were separate issues.

Premera is the second major payer to be the victim of a cyber attack. Anthem, a large Indianapolis-based payer, suffered a massive hack of its IT systems in February that exposed the personal data of approximately 80 million customers.

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