Risk
10/4/2011
08:48 AM
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Military Health Plan Data Breach Threatens 4.9 Million

Tricare says lost backup tapes fall under FTC jurisdiction, not HIPAA, so only offers 90 days of fraud protection.

12 Advances In Medical Robotics
(click image for larger view)
Slideshow: 12 Advances In Medical Robotics
A data breach involving nearly 5 million people treated at military healthcare facilities over a 19-year period is raising questions about whether U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules supersede Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) regulations.

Last week, Tricare, the managed care arm of the U.S. government's Military Health System, disclosed that contractor Science Applications International Corp. (SAIC) had lost backup tapes containing personally identifiable information--including some health data--of about 4.9 million people. The tapes contained data from electronic health records (EHRs) used at military hospitals, clinics, and pharmacies in the San Antonio area from 1992 until Sept. 7, 2011.

According to a statement from Tricare, the records may include Social Security numbers, addresses, and phone numbers, as well as clinical notes, prescription information, and some lab data. Tricare said that the tapes did not hold any financial information.

"The risk of harm to patients is judged to be low despite the data elements involved since retrieving the data on the tapes would require knowledge of and access to specific hardware and software and knowledge of the system and data structure," according to the Tricare statement. "Since we do not believe the tapes were taken with malicious intent, we believe the risk to beneficiaries is low."

[ Are you prepared if your organization suffers a data breach? See Data Breach Response Plans: Yours Ready?]

Tricare said that SAIC reported the breach on Sept. 14. Citing a police report, the San Antonio Express-News reported that the tapes were stolen from an SAIC employee's car during a burglary the night before.

The Tricare statement said that the U.S. Department of Defense and SAIC are working to identify all individuals whose data were compromised and that Tricare will sent notifications by mail. The process is expected to take 4-6 weeks.

People affected will not be provided with any private credit monitoring services. "The risk of harm to patients is judged to be low despite the data elements involved," the Tricare notice said. Tricare is directing enrollees to a FTC site where individuals can place a free, 90-day fraud alert on their personal credit ratings.

"It's clear that Tricare is trying to position this under Federal Trade Commission regulations, not under HIPAA regulations," Ruby Raley, director of healthcare solutions at IT integration and security company Axway, Scottsdale, Ariz., told InformationWeek Healthcare.

Unlike HIPAA, FTC regulations don't require entities to sign agreements with "business associates" that hold third parties to the same standards when handling sensitive data. Also, HIPAA regulations require organizations to provide a year of credit monitoring to anyone who may have been affected by a breach. "They're only [offering] fraud protection for 90 days," Raley said of Tricare.

As of Monday, the incident had not been posted on the Department of Health and Human Services' list of breaches affecting at least 500 people, commonly called the "wall of shame." The 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act calls for covered entities to report major HIPAA breaches to the HHS Office for Civil Rights if the data was not encrypted.

Tricare did not indicate whether SAIC encrypted the information on the stolen tapes, but Raley said, "It's very hard to encrypt a backup tape." Tricare did not respond to a request for comment on the HIPAA issues.

SAIC has not offered a public statement on the incident, but the company's home page references an "Incident Response Call Center."

Anyone concerned that they may have been affected by the theft can call (855) 366-0140 from within the United States or (952) 556-8312 from abroad. This same information is included in Tricare's statement.

Not every application is ready for the cloud, but two case studies featured in the new, all-digital issue of InformationWeek Healthcare offer some insights into what does work. Also in this issue: Keeping patient data secure isn't all that hard. But proposed new regulations could make it a lot harder. Download it now. (Free with registration.)

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
OTECH000
50%
50%
OTECH000,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/7/2011 | 2:24:19 PM
re: Military Health Plan Data Breach Threatens 4.9 Million
I think it might be TRICARE all caps, but not sure what it stands for.
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
Partner Perspectives
What's This?
In a digital world inundated with advanced security threats, Intel Security seeks to transform how we live and work to keep our information secure. Through hardware and software development, Intel Security delivers robust solutions that integrate security into every layer of every digital device. In combining the security expertise of McAfee with the innovation, performance, and trust of Intel, this vision becomes a reality.

As we rely on technology to enhance our everyday and business life, we must too consider the security of the intellectual property and confidential data that is housed on these devices. As we increase the number of devices we use, we increase the number of gateways and opportunity for security threats. Intel Security takes the “security connected” approach to ensure that every device is secure, and that all security solutions are seamlessly integrated.
Featured Writers
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading's October Tech Digest
Fast data analysis can stymie attacks and strengthen enterprise security. Does your team have the data smarts?
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2014-2021
Published: 2014-10-24
Cross-site scripting (XSS) vulnerability in admincp/apilog.php in vBulletin 4.4.2 and earlier, and 5.0.x through 5.0.5 allows remote authenticated users to inject arbitrary web script or HTML via a crafted XMLRPC API request, as demonstrated using the client name.

CVE-2014-3604
Published: 2014-10-24
Certificates.java in Not Yet Commons SSL before 0.3.15 does not properly verify that the server hostname matches a domain name in the subject's Common Name (CN) field of the X.509 certificate, which allows man-in-the-middle attackers to spoof SSL servers via an arbitrary valid certificate.

CVE-2014-6230
Published: 2014-10-24
WP-Ban plugin before 1.6.4 for WordPress, when running in certain configurations, allows remote attackers to bypass the IP blacklist via a crafted X-Forwarded-For header.

CVE-2014-6251
Published: 2014-10-24
Stack-based buffer overflow in CPUMiner before 2.4.1 allows remote attackers to have an unspecified impact by sending a mining.subscribe response with a large nonce2 length, then triggering the overflow with a mining.notify request.

CVE-2014-7180
Published: 2014-10-24
Electric Cloud ElectricCommander before 4.2.6 and 5.x before 5.0.3 uses world-writable permissions for (1) eccert.pl and (2) ecconfigure.pl, which allows local users to execute arbitrary Perl code by modifying these files.

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Follow Dark Reading editors into the field as they talk with noted experts from the security world.