A ransomware attack on medical supply company Airway Oxygen Inc., in April 2017 may have led to the protected health information of 500,000 individuals being accessed by cyber attackers.
No evidence of data access or theft was found by Airway Oxygen, based in Wyoming, although it was not possible to eliminate the possibility that information was compromised in the attack.
The attackers accessed to the company’s technical infrastructure on April 18, 2017 and installed ransomware. The part of the network targeted was discovered to contain protected health information including names, addresses, birth dates, contact telephone numbers, medical diagnoses, health insurance policy numbers and details of the services the company provided to subscribers. Financial information and Social Security numbers were not exposed to the attackers.
Upon identifying the cyberattack, instant action was taken to stop further network intrusions and a scan of the entire system was carried out to search for any additional malware. Passwords for patients, vendors and applications were changed as a precautionary measure. Airway Oxygen has made the incident known to the FBI and has brought in a third-party cybersecurity company to carry out a full investigation to determine how the ransomware was installed and the full effect of the breach.
The incident has led to Airway Oxygen complete an update of its security tools and deploying new security measures to stop future attacks. A firewall review has been planned and a new system has been installed to monitor suspicious firewall activity. That system will send alerts if suspicious firewall activity is detected. The firm will also continue to review its security measures to reduce the risk of future incidents happening.
Affected people were advised of the breach this month and provided with information on the steps they can take to safeguard their accounts and prevent fraud. While the attackers are not believed to have accessed PHI, affected people have been advised to monitor all their healthcare and financial accounts for suspicious activity.
Airway Oxygen Inc., has not revealed details about the type of ransomware involved, the ransom amount demanded by the attackers or whether the ransom was paid in part or in full.
Last year, the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights issued official guidance for covered bodies on ransomware attacks, outlining that a ransomware attack that leads to the encryption of data is a reportable security incident unless the covered body had encrypted PHI prior to the ransomware attack happening or it can be shown, by means of a risk assessment, that there is a low risk of PHI having been accessed, used, disclosed or altered. After the WannaCry ransomware attacks last month, OCR reconfirmed that ransomware attacks are normally reportable incidents.