Seattle Indian Health Board notified almost 800 patients after email hack

From their notification of October 8:

The Seattle Indian Health Board experienced a security attack to an employee email account on August 10, 2016. Access to the account lasted approximately 4 hours before the Seattle Indian Health Board IT department shut down the email system. The information accessed may or may not have included patients’ names, date of birth, patient ID numbers, social security numbers or other protected health information. The security of patient data is extremely important to us and we are taking this attack seriously as well as informing our patients directly and notifying the public about this incident.

We immediately launched an in-depth investigation to evaluate the extent of this incident. It was not possible to confirm whether or not any individual emails that contained protected health information were accessed externally. The Chief Information Officer assumes that access was unlikely given the nature of attacker’s behavior while in the account. The Seattle Indian Health Board IT department concluded that no emails were sent or forwarded out of the account besides messages that were created by the hacker and sent to unknown recipients. While the internal investigation indicated the risk of exposure of patient information was low, we want to be open about this possible exposure and reassure our patients, community members and other partners that we are following all regulations under the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA). We have mailed letters directly to, or are otherwise notifying, all patients who may have been affected.

The Seattle Indian Health Board has been using the proper measures and will continue to do so to avoid incidents like this in the future. Our IT department has forced a password change for every Seattle Indian Health Board staff member and is working to implement more structured password management and control measures. The IT department educated staff members about the importance of password safety. Finally, IT staff are actively working on a project to move all staff to a more secure email system with stronger protections against today’s security threats.

Read more on Seattle Indian Health Board. According to their submission to HHS, they notified 793 patients of the incident.

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