5,000 Individuals Exposed by Aetna Error

Health insurance provider Aetna, based in Hartford, CT has found that the protected health data of more than 5,000 plan subscriber has been released online and was accessible to the public through search engines.

Aetna started looking into a security issue affecting two computer services on April 27, 2017. Those services were intended to show files containing PHI to plan members and other authorized people, although it was found that the documents had been indexed by search engines and could be viewed by unauthorized people.

On May 10, the investigation had identified proof that confirmed a data breach had happened, with the investigation concluding on June 9. While the investigation into security issues was initiated in April, Aetna first became knowledgeable  of exposed PHI on February 1, according to the San Antonio Express-News. It is not clear why it took almost three months for an investigation to be begun.

According to Aetna, Social Security numbers, financial information and credit/debit card information were not exposed. The PHI in the documents only included names, identification numbers, member numbers, provider information and claim payment figures. Some people also had dates of service, procedure codes and service codes accessed.

1,708 Ohio and 522 Texas residents are known to have been affected by the data violation. Overall, the PHI of 5,002 individuals was exposed online, according to the breach report submitted to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights.

Aetna has not found evidence to suggest any information has been misused as a result of its exposure online. Action has already begun to deindex the documents to stop them from being displayed in search engine results and for cached data to be taken down from search engines. Steps have also been taken to stop the documents from being re-indexed by any search engines.

Affected people and plan sponsors are now being advised of the data breach by mail.