NC: Coastal Cape Fear Eye Associates notifies patients after ransomware attack

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On February 1, Coastal Cape Fear Eye Associates in North Carolina notified HHS of a hacking incident that impacted 925 patients. Unlike many other ransomware reports where there is no clear evidence of PHI acquisition or compromise, in this incident, there was evidence of actual compromise, although no evidence of exfiltration. Here is the entity’s notice that appeared on their web site:

HIPAA Notice to CCFEA Patients

As a health care provider, Coastal Cape Fear Eye Associates (“We” or “CCFEA”) values and respects the privacy of its patients’ personal information, and we take seriously our responsibility to secure all information that has been entrusted to us by our patients.  For this reason, we wanted to let the public know that we recently experienced a ransomware attack that compromised certain patient data.

On December 5, 2017, we discovered that, despite the security measures put in place by us and our information technology consultant, a file on CCFEA’s computer system was infiltrated by ransomware.  The ransomware attack deployed malicious code, resulting in our being unable to access certain electronic files.  We immediately engaged independent information technology professionals, and while they were able to quickly quarantine and remove the ransomware from the impacted file, we remained, until recently, unable to access the data stored in the electronic file to determine the types of information compromised and patients affected.

Following an investigation by CCFEA and independent information technology professionals, it was determined that while there is no evidence that any of the data was removed from the files, the ransomware attack did result in a compromising of certain electronic files containing patient records including patient names, addresses, dates of birth, phone numbers, Social Security Numbers, insurance card numbers, driver’s license numbers, email addresses, ethnicities, emergency contacts, medical histories, medications, legal documents, diagnosis records, physician notes, medical diagrams, and billing and payment histories, as well as scanned copies of Medicare cards, insurance cards, and drivers’ licenses.    Our investigation is ongoing and our information technology professionals are working to implement additional security measures to protect against future attacks.

We deeply regret that some of our patients’ protected health information has been compromised.  CCFEA is working to individually notify all affected patients and file the appropriate reports with the North Carolina Department of Justice and the United States Department of Health and Human Service to ensure the incident is properly addressed.

If your personal information was compromised in the ransomware attack and we have your current address, you will be receiving a letter from us informing you of the data breach and providing you with steps you should take to protect your identity and information.

If you have any questions or further concerns, please contact Dee Smith at 910-762-0057

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