Risk
4/11/2012
11:38 AM
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
50%
50%

Utah's Medicaid Data Breach Worse Than Expected

Utah Department of Technology Services (DTS) reveals 780,000 individuals have been affected by the theft of sensitive Medicaid information. That's far worse than initial estimates.

Master's Degree Programs For IT Pros And Clinicians
Master's Degree Programs For IT Pros And Clinicians
(click image for larger view and for slideshow)
A new tally of files stored on a server that contained Medicaid information at the Utah Department of Technology Services (DTS) reveals that 780,000 individuals have been affected by the theft of sensitive information. That's far worse than initial estimates.

The data breach occurred on March 30, when a configuration error occurred at the password authentication level, allowing the hacker, located in Eastern Europe, to circumvent DTS's security system.

"The server was a test server and when it was put into production there was a misconfiguration. Processes were not followed and the password was very weak," Stephanie Weiss, spokesperson for DTS, told InformationWeek Healthcare.

On Monday DTS, along with the Utah Department of Health (UDOH), announced that an additional 255,000 people had their social security numbers (SSNs) stolen by hackers from a computer server last week. Until last Friday, authorities had estimated that only 25,096 individuals had their SSNs compromised. That brought the revised figure up to 280,096.

DTS officials said the 280,096 victims were individuals whose information was sent to the state by their healthcare provider in a transaction called a Medicaid Eligibility Inquiry to determine their status as possible Medicaid recipients.

[ Most of the largest healthcare data security and privacy breaches have involved lost or stolen mobile computing devices. For possible solutions, see 7 Tools To Tighten Healthcare Data Security. ]

Another 500,000 individuals had less sensitive personal information stolen, comprising names, addresses, dates of birth, and medical diagnostic codes, among other information. That brings the total number affected to more than 780,000. Officials cautioned that some victims may have been counted twice, and the number of people affected could be reduced as the investigation continues.

The information was hacked from 224,000 files that contained Medicaid Eligibility Inquiries and from the records of Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Plan (CHIP) recipients.

One single file can potentially contain claims information on hundreds of individuals. DTS has started the process of identifying these additional victims, and the state will be sending letters directly to them as they are identified. To provide a remedy, victims whose SSNs were stolen will receive one year of free credit-monitoring services.

"I am not the least bit surprised," said Daniel Berger, president and CEO of Redspin Inc., a company that provides IT risk assessments at hospitals and other medical facilities. In an interview with InformationWeek Healthcare Berger said, "While the majority of healthcare data breaches to date have been the result of non-malicious incidents, it's always been only a matter of time before the hackers arrived. Digitized medical records are now a high-value target."

Looking ahead, Tom Hudachko, spokesman for UDOH, said the department will send its report to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services as they assess potential violations of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA).

"DTS is listed as a business associate of ours, so they will be responsible for filing their own separate report with HHS's Office of Civil Rights (OCR), and we will also be filing a report with OCR and with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services," Hudachko told InformationWeek Healthcare. "We've spent some time thinking about a potential fine, but right now we're trying to figure out how we're going to take care of the victims' immediate needs."

In the meantime, DTS has implemented new data security procedures. "We've reviewed our process to prevent this type of incident from happening again," Weiss said. "We've put in place some additional network monitoring and intrusion-detection capabilities."

To shore up their data protection procedures, Rick Kam, president and co-founder of ID Experts, said DTS and UDOH should perform an inventory of the sensitive information their organization manages. "Whether it is considered personally identifiable information (PII) or protected health information (PHI), both have regulatory security requirements to protect it and to notify individuals if security is breached," Kam told InformationWeek Healthcare.

In order to reduce the risk of data theft, Kam recommends that organizations take the following steps:

-- Ask for and keep only PII/PHI that is necessary, and properly dispose of that data.

-- Perform annual risk assessments where PII/PHI exists, whether it is managed within your organization or by third parties, to identify any threats and vulnerabilities and to find the best ways to mitigate risk.

-- Determine the "at risk value" of the PII/PHI to justify appropriate levels of investment in risk mitigation systems used to protect it.

-- Implement and test risk mitigation tools on a periodic basis to make sure they are working effectively.

"Hackers are testing for configuration errors, simple authentication procedures, or weak passwords. It is highly probable that this situation could have been avoided," Kam said.

The 2012 InformationWeek Healthcare IT Priorities Survey finds that grabbing federal incentive dollars and meeting pay-for-performance mandates are the top issues facing IT execs. Find out more in the new, all-digital Time To Deliver issue of InformationWeek Healthcare. (Free registration required.)

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Threaded  |  Newest First  |  Oldest First
Bprince
50%
50%
Bprince,
User Rank: Ninja
4/12/2012 | 4:47:14 AM
re: Utah's Medicaid Data Breach Worse Than Expected
This seems to be getting worse and worse. Underscores the importance of monitoring configuration changes.
Brian Prince, InformationWeek/Dark Reading Comment Moderator
gardoglee
50%
50%
gardoglee,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/14/2012 | 2:14:49 PM
re: Utah's Medicaid Data Breach Worse Than Expected
One thing which bothers me greatly in the reporting on this is that they keep implying, or even saying directly, that the data other than SSN is not as sensitive or important. OK, I realize the SSN is useful for identity theft, but the procedure codes will contain terribly private and sensitive data for many of those affected, and in the long term could be used in many malicious ways.
unnamed
50%
50%
unnamed,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/19/2012 | 8:16:12 PM
re: Utah's Medicaid Data Breach Worse Than Expected
This is going to continue as long as people don't step back and take a look at the big picture. This is a violation of federal laws and the state of Utah is at fault. Kinda funny how the one state that has no separation of religion and state, is the only state to get "breached" I strongly encourage that everyone VOICE their opinion. This is WRONG! and the cover up sickens me.
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-2014-7298
Published: 2014-10-24
adsetgroups in Centrify Server Suite 2008 through 2014.1 and Centrify DirectControl 3.x through 4.2.0 on Linux and UNIX allows local users to read arbitrary files with root privileges by leveraging improperly protected setuid functionality.

CVE-2014-8346
Published: 2014-10-24
The Remote Controls feature on Samsung mobile devices does not validate the source of lock-code data received over a network, which makes it easier for remote attackers to cause a denial of service (screen locking with an arbitrary code) by triggering unexpected Find My Mobile network traffic.

CVE-2014-0619
Published: 2014-10-23
Untrusted search path vulnerability in Hamster Free ZIP Archiver 2.0.1.7 allows local users to execute arbitrary code and conduct DLL hijacking attacks via a Trojan horse dwmapi.dll that is located in the current working directory.

CVE-2014-2230
Published: 2014-10-23
Open redirect vulnerability in the header function in adclick.php in OpenX 2.8.10 and earlier allows remote attackers to redirect users to arbitrary web sites and conduct phishing attacks via a URL in the (1) dest parameter to adclick.php or (2) _maxdest parameter to ck.php.

CVE-2014-7281
Published: 2014-10-23
Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerability in Shenzhen Tenda Technology Tenda A32 Router with firmware 5.07.53_CN allows remote attackers to hijack the authentication of administrators for requests that reboot the device via a request to goform/SysToolReboot.

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.