Georgia dental practice discovers it was attacked by ransomware when the attackers call them on the phone

Well, this is a bit different from what I am used to reading.

Galstan & Ward Family and Cosmetic Dentistry (Galstan & Ward) is a dental practice in Georgia.  On  September 9, 2020, they learned that they had been a victim of a ransomware attack — or an attempted attack — when they got a phone call from a group claiming to have attacked them and demanding a ransom.

That was literally news to the practice. Prior to that call, Drs. Galstan and Ward had noticed some anomalies with their computer system and had hired an IT vendor to wipe the server and reinstall from backup. So there had been no significant disruption of service or loss of data. Or so they thought.

In a notification to patients of November 13, the practice explained that they discovered that the intrusion had occurred between August 31 and September 1.  On September 11, they learned that several files from their server were posted to a website on the dark web. The files reportedly did not contain any information concerning patients.

After becoming aware of the incident, Galstan & Ward contacted outside counsel, “who immediately engaged a computer security firm to conduct a forensic analysis and provide remediation services.”

Their analysis confirmed that the restored server was free from any malware. The security firm could find no evidence that confidential patient data stored in Galstan & Ward’s dental practice software system was accessed or acquired. Additional investigation did not find evidence of acquisition or access of confidential patient information.

But of course, we know that’s often the case — that investigations do not find proof of access or exfiltration and then months later, we see data on the dark web.

In any event, out of an abundance of caution (they say), and because their software stores patient names, social security numbers, dates of birth, addresses, and dental records using a data masking technique, they are notifying all patients who might be impacted and offering them credit monitoring and identity theft restoration services through IDX.

The incident was reported to HHS on November 6 as impacting 10,759 patients.  The doctors’ notification does not identify what kind of ransomware was used.

Update:  This was an attack by Conti threat actors, who uploaded approximately 20 files as proof of access. The files do not appear to contain PHI, but rather templates for files and documents from the dental office’s Dentrix system.

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