Almost 10,000 patients of Columbus Surgery Center, LLC and Eye Physicians, P.C., in Columbus, Nebraska have been impacted by a ransomware attack.
The ransomware attack was carried out on October 7, 2017 and hit a large amount of files on some servers being encrypted by the ransomware. A ransom demand was made by the cyberattackers, although the ransom demand was not paid. The encrypted files were restored using a recent backup to allow services to be continued to be given to patients.
Third-party computer forensics consultants were called in to help with the investigation of the attack to deduce whether the cyber attackers gained access to, viewed, or copied patient data and to examine how access to the servers was gained and how the ransomware was placed there.
The investigation did not find evidence to suggest any patient health information was obtained, but data access could not be eliminated with a high degree of confidence. Due to this, the incident had to be reported to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights under HIPAA Rules and alerts to patients were called for. Those notifications have now been sent.
Eye Physicians has revealed that the breach involved data such as names, dates of birth, and ophthalmic imagery, and that no financial data or Social Security numbers were obtained.
Due to the attack, an external IT security consultant was brought in to conduct a comprehensive security risk assessment to find potential vulnerabilities, and hardware and software have been enhanced as a result of that assessment. It is hoped that the improvements to security will help to stop similar incidents from occurring going forward.
According to the breach reports submitted to OCR the hacking incident impacted 7,721 clients of the Columbus Surgery Center and 2,620 clients of Eye Physicians.