Northeast Radiology notifies patients of PACS data security incident
Note: Northeast Radiology issued a press release yesterday about a data security incident that their healthcare management services provider, Alliance HealthCare Services, notified them about. DataBreaches.net noted that Alliance notified Northeast Radiology on January 11, 2020 — the day after TechCrunch reported updated research on the problem with exposed PACS leaking protected health information. Although Northeast Radiology describes this incident as unauthorized individuals gaining access to the files, it seems likely that the PACS server was connected to the internet without any password required and people found it and accessed it. DataBreaches.net sent an email inquiry to Northeast Radiology asking about this, but we have received no reply as yet. If we do, we may update this post.
The following is their press release:
Northeast Radiology today announced that it is addressing a data security incident, caused by unauthorized individuals, which may have involved the personal information of some patients. Northeast Radiology and its healthcare management services provider, Alliance HealthCare Services, have completed an investigation with a leading forensic security firm and are evaluating systems and processes to help prevent future occurrences.
On January 11, 2020, Alliance HealthCare Services notified Northeast Radiology that unauthorized individuals gained access to Northeast Radiology’s picture archiving and communication system (“PACS”), which is used to store radiology images and related information. Upon learning of the incident, Alliance HealthCare Services launched an investigation to understand the incident, review all related security controls, and evaluate systems and processes to further strengthen protections for the PACS.
There is no evidence that any personal information was misused by the unauthorized individuals, and Northeast Radiology is not aware of any instances of fraud or identity theft as a result of this incident. However, Alliance HealthCare Services and Northeast Radiology’s investigation determined that 29 patients’ information was accessed in this incident. Northeast Radiology is notifying each of these patients and providing them with details regarding the incident and next steps. Other patients’ information was also available on the system, but regarding them, Northeast Radiology and Alliance HealthCare Services do not have evidence about whose particular information may have been accessed, if at all. Therefore, out of an abundance of caution, these other patients are also being notified. The information potentially involved for each individual varied, but could have included name, gender, age, date of birth, exam description, date of service, image, image description, and medical record number which, in some instances, may have corresponded to the patient’s Social Security Number. Where Northeast Radiology has notified patients, they have also arranged for identity protection and credit monitoring services for those individuals whose Social Security Numbers were potentially impacted.
Written notifications were sent beginning March 11, 2020, to all potentially impacted individuals for whom Northeast Radiology had contact information. If individuals do not receive written notification but believe their records may have been impacted, they can request information by calling the confidential inquiry line at 1-800-491-8837 between 9:00 a.m. and 6:30 p.m. Eastern Time Monday through Friday.
Individuals should refer to the notice they received in the mail to learn how they can protect themselves against potential fraud and identity theft. As a precautionary measure, individuals should remain vigilant about reviewing their account statements and credit reports. If unauthorized activity on an account is suspected, individuals should promptly notify the related financial institution or company and report the activity to the proper law enforcement authorities, including the individuals’ local police and their state attorney general.
The Federal Trade Commission offers additional information on fraud alerts, security freezes and ways to avoid identity theft. These can be found by visiting www.ftc.gov/idtheft, calling 1.877.438.4338 or sending a letter to:
Federal Trade Commission
600 Pennsylvania Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20580
Northeast Radiology apologizes for any inconvenience or concern that this incident might cause. For many years, Northeast Radiology has been serving the medical imaging needs in New York, Connecticut and surrounding communities, and remains committed to providing patients the highest quality of care while working to prevent these types of incidents from occurring in the future.