Manitowoc County Phishing Attack Leads to PHI Theft

Manitowoc County in Wisconsin has revealed that protected health information has been illegally obtained due to a successful phishing attack. The incident happened close to January 14, 2018, although the attack and data breach was not identified until April 24. While the account was quickly secured to stop any further access, the hacker had well over two months to view and download sensitive data stored in the email account.

During the time period that the hacker had email account access, emails sent to that account were re-routed to a separate email account to which Manitowoc County staff had no access. While County officials have not found any proof to indicate any of the information in the emails has been misused, they have similarly not been able to eliminate the misuse or sale of that sensitive data.

The sort of information that was obtained include names, telephone numbers, email addresses, addresses and birth date details. Individuals who received services through the County have also had their health information, insurance information, details of prescriptions, client ID details, diagnoses and other treatment related information obtained by the hacker.

Manitowoc County has not released information on the number of individuals have been impacted and the incident has yet to be listed on the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) breach portal. However, Manitowoc County has now issued alerts to all individuals affected by the phishing attack.

Breach victims have been advised that they should be alert to phishing emails that claim to be from Manitowoc County. County officials have said that that they will not send any emails or make calls to people affected by this incident or ask for further personal information. Individuals affected by the breach have also been told to be wary of any emails including hyperlinks, to exercise care opening any emails, and not to disclose sensitive information to people over the telephone.

The phishing attack has lead to the County to take additional steps to improve security controls and additional investments will be made in new protocols, technology and training to stop further successful phishing attacks from happening.