Jim Finkle reports:
Ten U.S. states have sent a letter to Anthem Inc complaining that the company has been too slow in notifying consumers that they were victims of a massive data breach disclosed last week.
“The delay in notifying those impacted is unreasonable and is causing unnecessary added worry to an already concerned population of Anthem customers,” said the letter, which was sent on Tuesday by Connecticut Attorney General George Jepsen on behalf of Connecticut and nine other states.
Reading the letter, it seems that Anthem generally got praised for disclosing the breach relatively quickly after discovery of the breach, but criticized for not providing more details quickly enough and for not notifying affected consumers of the details concerning credit-monitoring quickly enough.
I suppose Anthem could have waited to disclose the breach until they had more details and had all the credit-monitoring ducks in a row and ready to go, but wasn’t it more important to alert consumers so they could begin to take steps to protect themselves? I almost think the state attorneys general are being a bit unreasonable, even though I understand that their constituents are worrying and calling them to complain. The state attorneys general should know that forensics takes time and that Anthem would disclose more details if it knew more.
Yesterday – two days after the letter was sent – Anthem disclosed that the attack affected current and former customers going back to 2004, and that everyone who was enrolled on or after 2004 would be offered two years of credit monitoring. Other important details, such as when the breach first occurred, remain to be clarified.
But saying that they’ve been slow to disclose details seems a bit unfair to this blogger. Certainly there is no federal or state laws that require a breached entity to know all the details and disclose them within two weeks of discovery.
The issue of credit-monitoring, however, is something Anthem probably could have handled better, as at least some people rushed out to purchase credit-monitoring and restoration services, not knowing that Anthem would provide them services that would be retroactive.
I wonder if as part of Anthem’s data breach response plan, they had pre-planned which credit-monitoring service they would use, or if they first began doing comparative shopping and evaluation after the breach was discovered. Finding a firm that can handle such a large breach is difficult, as we’ve seen on this blog when consumers report that they cannot get through on overwhelmed phone lines or sign-up sites crash from heavy use. Had Anthem taken that into account and ensured that there was a firm out there that could handle a massive breach? Is this delay in providing the details of the plan due to the vendor needing to line up more staff and phone lines quickly or is the delay due to Anthem? There’s probably a lesson to be learned here.