Seton Healthcare Family notifies 5,500 patients of breach involving stolen laptop (CORRECTED)

It’s been a while since I’ve reported on a stolen laptop breach involving Seton Healthcare Family in Texas, but it appears they’ve had another one. Here is the notice posted on their web site today:

Seton Healthcare Family is committed to maintaining the privacy and confidentiality of our patients’ information. Regrettably, this notice concerns an incident involving the theft of a Seton laptop computer and potential stolen data.

During the morning of Oct. 4, Seton discovered that a laptop computer had been stolen from the Seton McCarthy Clinic. Seton immediately notified the Austin Police Department. The laptop apparently was stolen between 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 3, and 9 a.m. Friday, Oct. 4, from the clinic located at 2811 E. Second St. The Austin Police Department’s investigation remains ongoing at this time. Seton has implemented new actions to enhance physical security for all of its facilities.

Upon discovering that the laptop had been stolen, Seton began a thorough investigation regarding the contents of the stolen laptop. Seton’s investigation determined that the stolen laptop included demographic information about patients seen at Seton McCarthy, Seton Topfer and Seton Kozmetsky community health centers and the Seton Total Health Partners program. Unfortunately, due to a missed technology glitch during installation, this specific laptop did not have encryption software installed as required by Seton policy. Demographic information includes: name, address, phone number, date of birth, Seton medical record number, patient account number, some Social Security numbers, diagnosis, immunizations and insurance information. Seton has taken steps to reduce the possibility of this happening again.

Seton has no reason to believe that the laptop was taken for the information it contained or that any patient information has been used inappropriately. Nevertheless, Seton will provide identity theft protection for one year, free of charge, for all impacted patients. Seton has partnered with CSID, a leading provider of global enterprise-level identity protection and fraud detection, to provide these services.

Individual letters are being sent to each patient or guardian by CSID with instructions for accessing this protection, which includes credit monitoring – such as reviews of loan applications, negative comments on credit reports and bankruptcy and lien filings – and extensive monitoring of internet posts; debit reports covering 90 percent of U.S. banks and 75,000 retailers; and public records, including property deed transfers, mail forwarding, new phone service and uses of alias associated with individual Social Security numbers.

Information also is available on a special Seton website page. Patients who receive CSID notification letters and have questions can telephone, toll-free, (855) 724-2743.

The additional information on the breach reveals that inspection of backup tapes suggests that 5,500 patients may have been affected. Seton does not report for how long the laptop had been in use and how it is that the lack of proper encryption had not been discovered or reported by the employee(s) using the laptop.  How often does Seton re-train employees on privacy and security and/or remind them that all devices with PII/PHI must be encrypted?

Previous incidents involving Seton  Healthcare Family include:

CORRECTION: A previous version of this post incorrectly reported a 2006 breach in NYS. That breach did not involve Seton Healthcare Family of Austin, but Seton Health Information Services in New York. PHIprivacy.net apologizes to Seton Healthcare Family for that error and thanks Seton Healthcare Family for pointing out the error.

About the author: Dissent