A press release from the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research:
After learning that a laptop containing research study information was stolen from an employee’s car, the Feinstein Institute for Medical Research announced today it is sending letters to some research participants, advising of the possible disclosure of some personal and health information.
“Although both the computer and the health information contained on the laptop were password protected, we cannot rule out the possibility that such information could be accessed,” Kevin Tracey, MD, president and chief executive officer of the Feinstein Institute, wrote in a letter to approximately 13,000 current and past participants in about 50 different research studies, which represent about two percent of the 2,100 clinical trials coordinated by the Manhasset, NY-based research enterprise, part of the North Shore-LIJ Health System.
The Feinstein Institute is offering one year of free credit monitoring for the much smaller number of participants whose social security numbers were included with information contained in the stolen laptop. A toll free number has also been established to respond to questions from research participants: 1-888-591-3911. “Although we are not aware of any improper use of your information, our priority is to help protect you against potential fraudulent activities,” Dr. Tracey said.
The laptop was stolen from the car of a computer programmer involved in organizing research data at the Feinstein Institute. The theft has been reported to law enforcement authorities and extensive efforts were pursued to retrieve the laptop. However, the Feinstein Institute has determined that it is unlikely the computer will be recovered and is now sending notification letters to research participants and alerting all relevant regulatory agencies.
To reduce the risk of future breaches, the Feinstein Institute is pursuing aggressive steps to strengthen its IT security and will engage a leading digital risk management and investigation firm to develop recommendations.
“The Feinstein Institute values your commitment to the advancement of discoveries that improve the health of our community and is dedicated to protecting the information provided by our research participants,” Dr. Tracey wrote to research participants. “We deeply apologize for any inconvenience this incident may cause. Your participation in research is critically important to our efforts to understand disease and identify potential cures.”
To view a sample of the notification letter sent to research participants, click here.
According to the letter dated September 14:
On or about September 2, 2012, a laptop computer containing research information, including personally identifiable health information about you, was stolen from the car of a computer programmer involved in organizing research data at the Feinstein Institute. Although both the computer and the health information contained on the laptop were password protected, we cannot rule out the possibility that such information could be accessed. The data may have included your name, social security number and one or more of the following: mailing address, date of birth or medical information relating to your potential participation in a research study.