Colorado Mental Health Institute Hit by Phishing Attack

The Colorado Mental Health Institute at Pueblo has found that one of its staff members has been tricked by a phishing scam that possibly allowed the attacker to gain access to the protected health information of around 650 patients.

A 449-bed hospital providing inpatient care for patients, the Colorado Mental Health Institute serves patients with pending criminal charges that require competency evaluations, people found by the courts to be incompetent to proceed and those found not guilty of crimes due to insanity.

The phishing attack happened on November 1, 2017. The employee inadvertently released login credentials that meant the attacker accessed to a state-issued computer. Unauthorized activity on the computer was found the next day and access to the device was promptly turned off.

The forensic investigation did not find any proof to suggest the protected health information of patients had been accessed or obtained, although the possibility of unauthorized access and data theft could not be eliminated with complete certainty.

All patients affected by the incident have been alerted of the security violation, as is required by HIPAA regulations. They have been informed that potentially compromised data “could include, but is not limited to name, date of birth, Social Security number, address, phone number, insurance information, admission and discharge dates.”

The phishing attack has lead to the Colorado Mental Health Institute to adapt new technical security measures to stop future phishing attacks. Privacy policies and processes have also been reviewed and updated and staff have received additional training on the dangers posed by phishing. The Colorado Mental Health Institute stated that the person who was tricked by the phishing scam has been dealt with “in accordance with CDHS policy and applicable law.”