In August 2017 malware was discovered to have been installed on one of the computer servers used by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany (CCDA) in its Glens Falls office, which served patients in Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties in New York. It was discovered while an upgrade of its computer security software, was being carried out.
Quick steps was taken to block access to the server and CCDA called in a computer security firm to carry out an investigation into the unauthorized access. The investigation, which took several weeks to finish, showed that access to the server potentially dated back to 2015.
While access to the server was possible and malware had been installed, the investigation did not find proof to suggest the protected health information of patients had been viewed or downloaded.
An analysis of the server showed the stored files contained the protected health information of 4,624 people. The information potentially accessed by the attackers was comprised of names, addresses, birth dates, diagnosis codes, dates of service, and for some patients, their health insurance ID numbers which may have included Social Security numbers. Financial data and details of treatment and therapy were stored in other places on the network and were not accessible at any time.
The incident has been reported to law enforcement agencies, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR), the Division of Consumer Protection, and the state Attorney General. Patients have been made aware of the breach and have been offered credit monitoring and identity theft protection services for one year for free.
Even when appropriate security solutions are put in place to safeguard the protected health information of patients, breaches can still happen. Sister Charla Commins, CSJ, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties, revealed, “We have modern digital security measures in place, but every day it seems criminals’ intent on invading computer systems find new ways to do so.” Sister Commins also explained, “We take very seriously our responsibility for protecting private information, and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our clients and staff.”
To stop potential further malware attacks and intrusions, CCDA has improved the security of its servers.