The information leaked in a data breach can vary in severity, ranging from your email address or phone number to your social security number and even your medical records. Unfortunately, in the latest data breach to rock the nation, all of this information and more was exposed.
The sensitive information of over 900,000 diabetes patients was exposed online in a massive data breach caused by telemarketing company HealthNow Networks, according to the South Florida Reporter.
Earlier this month, HealthNow Networks was discovered to have an unprotected backup database that held patient information such as:
- Patient names
- Social security numbers
- Dates of birth
- Phone numbers
- Email addresses
- Health insurance information
- Required medications and medical equipment
The now defunct company used this poorly guarded information to market medical products and equipment to patients with diabetes.
Just how long this data was left unprotected is currently unknown, but it is likely that opportunistic cyber thieves have been able to use this information for their own nefarious purposes, including identity theft.
The Dangers of Data Breaches
The thought of a stranger having access to your most private information, such as your home address or social security number, is obviously an uncomfortable one. But it’s more than just unsettling — it’s dangerous.
In the hands of a savvy hacker, your debit or credit card number and other bank account information can be used to make unauthorized purchases and even open new accounts, according to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission. This fraudulent activity can have lasting impacts on your credit score if gone unnoticed.
Medical data breaches have the potential to be even more dangerous, as healthcare facilities have access to extensive amounts of an individual’s private information, and victims may not realize their information has been compromised until it’s too late.
Electronic healthcare record theft is more difficult to detect and can sometimes take twice as long to spot compared to other forms of identity theft, according to CyberScoop, a cyber security news source. Unscrupulous hackers and crime syndicates can use this stolen medical data to commit a range of crimes varying from fraud and identity theft to blackmail and extortion.
Sadly, the HealthNow Networks scandal is just one of the many data breaches involving trusted healthcare businesses to transpire this year alone.
Healthcare Sector Accounts for Quarter of All Data Breaches in 2017
While the business sector had the highest number of data breaches this year thus far — accounting for 54.2 percent of all incidents — the healthcare sector lags not far behind, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center.
Medical data breaches accounted for 23.9 percent of all breaches in 2017. One hundred and nine breaches have occurred in the healthcare sector since January and 1,505,534 medical records were exposed as a result.
As of April, 456 breaches have occurred and 7,938,056 total records have been exposed across all sectors, including banking, business, educational, governmental, and healthcare.
Major Medical Data Breaches in Recent Years
A number of prominent health insurance and medical companies were implicated in data breaches in recent years.
In May of 2015, CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield announced that hackers had stolen the personal information of 1.1 million present and former policyholders. Members’ names, usernames created to access the company’s website, dates of birth, email addresses, and subscriber identification numbers were acquired in the breach.
Premera Blue Cross released a statement in March of 2015 about a major data breach that affected at least 11 million of its customers. Cyber attackers were able to access Premera’s IT systems to steal members’ names, dates of birth, email addresses, home address, social security numbers, bank account numbers, and medical claims.
And, in what is considered the largest healthcare breach in history, health insurance giant Anthem fell victim to a sophisticated cyber attack in Feb. 2015 that stole the sensitive data from as many as 80 million customers and employees. The data breach also affected as many as 18.8 million non-customers, according to a report by Reuters.
Were You Affected by This Breach?
With data breaches becoming increasingly common, it’s hard not to feel desensitized by their overwhelming number or helpless in the face of cyber security threats. Nevertheless, it’s important to remember that if your information has been compromised, you have legal recourse and a right to justice.
Any diabetes patient with health insurance through Aetna, Cigna, Blue Cross Blue Shield or UnitedHealthcare could be affected by the HealthNow Network data breach. Contact our consumer protection attorneys to learn what you could be entitled to if your sensitive medical information was leaked in this data breach.