MI: Holland Eye Surgery & Laser Center notifies 42,200 patients about 2016 hack
After his victim allegedly didn’t respond to his repeated demands for a “security fee,” a hacker accuses the victim of covering up a hack for almost two years.
One of the breaches added to HHS’s public breach tool this past week is a breach reported by Holland Eye Surgery and Laser Center in Michigan. The incident is noted on HHS’s breach tool as a hack affecting 42,200 patients. But according to the self-identified hacker, there’s more to this story than the covered entity has disclosed.
In early April, DataBreaches.net was contacted by a hacker who had contacted this site in the past about a hack of a dental practice. He is known to this site as “Lifelock,” and signs his communications as “Todd Davis,” aka “Lifelock.” After his first contact with this site in the Yaley case, DataBreaches.net did find him on some dark web markets as Lifelock, selling identity information and “fullz.”
According to Lifelock’s statement to this site: in June, 2016, he hacked Holland Eye Surgery & Laser Center in Holland, Michigan. He then reportedly contacted them and demanded a “security fee” of $10,000.00 for helping them secure their patient data. As he related it to this site:
I invoiced them a fee of 10000 USD a fair payment for my time and to help them secure their data. They turned off access immediately to the RDP server so I know they received communications from me. Over the course of weeks I requested them to pay my invoice to secure their patient data. They never once acknowledged me. But I am very persistent and communicate with staff members, faxes and all means where i can verify delivery. These pricks want to cover up the incident.
When the doctors didn’t pay his “security fee,” he claims he followed through on a threat he had made: he began selling small amounts of their patients’ data on the dark web – first on AlphaBay, and then later on, on TradeRoute. He claims that each time he did, he informed or taunted the doctors that he was selling their patients’ information.
According to his statements to this site, Lifelock sold more than 200 patients’ information, but still,
the practice did not inform Michigan or HHS authorities that the data had been breached. Their patients had no fair warning that the data had been breached. I setup banks for dirty money transfers in these peoples names, my buyers used them for identity protection for when arrested, and to make cell phone accounts to purchase 5 iphones at a time from Verizon, ATT et al.
I have contacted the practice at least 30 times over the past 2 years to do the right thing for their patients.
As part of the proof he provided to this site, Lifelock included two databases: one called patients.csv, with 202,163 records and one called person.csv, with 42,229 records. The files are date-stamped June 26, 2016. Holland Eye’s report to HHS seems to correspond to the number of patients in the person.csv file, but it is not clear what happened to all the people who had data in the patients.csv file. That database has names, addresses, insurance information, and some other fields. DataBreaches.net sent an inquiry to Holland Eye’s external counsel asking for an explanation on that point, but did not receive an immediate response. This post will be updated if an explanation is received. UPDATE of June 4: Lawyers for Holland Eye responded to this site’s inquiry: “We investigated the patients.csv file you have a copy of and determined that there is not anyone in it who was not also in the person.csv file. The patients.csv file merely has more than one line item for many individual patients. In short, these people were included in the report to HHS.” DataBreaches.net appreciates their clarification.
In any event, according to Lifelock, in March of this year, Lifelock contacted the doctors yet again, and also contacted the mayor of Holland, Michigan, Nancy De Boer. Shortly after those unsuccessful attempts, he contacted DataBreaches.net, claiming that his goal was now to get the patients notified and the doctors exposed and shamed for allegedly covering up the breach:
Please find a way to let the people of Holland know that they have been breached and that the people who swore a hippocratic oath to do no harm, have done them immense harm. Further that the people who are supposed to be in charge do not have their best interests in mind and would rather suckle the cocks of the rich Dutchmen rather than inform the common rabble of their plight.
The reference to “people in charge” appears to be a response to his attempt to get a response from Mayor De Boer. According to Lifelock, when he contacted her in March:
She did not respond until I opened multiple lines of credit in her name, utility accounts, EIN’s, etc… She did respond, and appeared to take the breach seriously, but her motive was to find my identity rather than help the people of her town. She used a silly technique of embedding a tracking image to try and find me.
On May 16, after confirming that the breach had never been reported to HHS or the state of Michigan, DataBreaches.net sent Holland Eye Surgery a detailed message about the hacker’s claims with a request for a response.
On May 18, two days later and almost 60 days after they claimed to have first learned of the breach, the practice issued a media notice in the Holland Sentinel.
In that notice, they claim that they first learned of the breach on March 19, 2018 when they were contacted by someone claiming to be a pentester who informed them that he had their patients’ data and had sold some of it.
External counsel for the doctors later confirmed to DataBreaches.net that the “pentester” signed his communication in March as “Todd Davis.”
According to their media notice, then, although the practice appears to acknowledge that they had been hacked in 2016 and that the hacker was in possession of their patient data, they claim that the hacker “concealed the extent of his or her access until the recent email communications in March 2018.” That, of course, is disputed by Lifelock’s claims, but this site has no proof of his claims as to any contacts prior to March, 2018. When asked for proof of any early emails, Lifelock had replied:
Unfortunately my original communications to HE have been deleted when sigaint.org went down. I normally delete communications frequently as I am not wanting to have excess evidence should Europol\RCMP\ICR\Scotland Yard et al kick in my door one day. My normal intent is not journalism unfortunately. I will look to see if I can find old email addresses I used and see if there is any evidence. Some email addresses as you can imagine get eliminated for TOS abuses. Sadly Gmail doesn’t like its services to be used for extortion schemes.
Lifelock never provided any additional evidence after that communication. That said, the doctors’ version makes little sense to this blogger, while Lifelock’s version does make sense.
Why would a hacker hack them in June, 2016 and then wait almost two years to first contact them with a (“security fee”) demand? Lifelock’s claims that he hacked them, promptly tried to extort them for a “security fee,” and then upped the pressure on them (or tried to) by selling patient data and letting them know that he was doing that makes a lot more sense, and we’ve certainly seen that scenario before. TheDarkOverlord (TDO) frequently used such methods – releasing small amounts of patient information or claiming to have sold it – to increase pressure on their victims.
So… is this site being gamed by Lifelock to seek revenge on a reluctant victim or to send a message to other victims to pay up or face public exposure? Perhaps, but if his claims are true, then the doctors covered up a breach for almost two years and knowingly left their patients at risk. But are his claims true? This site has no evidence or confirmation of the crucial claim that Holland Eye first became aware that they had been breached in June, 2016. Perhaps that is something that OCR should investigate.
DataBreaches.net contacted the Holland Police with a freedom of information request for the police report and any associated records, but has received no response as yet. This site also contacted Mayor Nancy De Boer’s office to request a statement, but did not get any response.
Holland Eye’s media notice makes clear that they have contacted patients whose Social Security number was involved and offered them credit monitoring services. They have provided all patients with advice on how to protect themselves and to check their statements for signs of information misuse. And as noted at the outset of this report, they have notified HHS.
This post will be updated if more information becomes available.