Sarrell Dental, an Alabama-based not-for-profit Children’s dental and optical service clinic, has suffered a ransomware attack in which the protected health information of its patients may have been infiltrated.
Sarrell Dental is the largest dental services clinic in the state of Alabama and operates 17 clinics in the state. In July 2019, ransomware was implemented on its network which lead to the widespread file encryption. Upon identification of the attack, the network was disabled, and an investigation was begun. Impacted clinics were closed for two weeks while the breach was investigated and systems were brought back online. A ransom demand was submitted but it was not paid. Patient information was brought back online using backups.
A third-party computer forensics firm was hired to assist with the investigation to determine the range of the breach. That investigation showed that the hackers may have first gained access to Sarrell Dental systems as early as January 2019. No evidence was found to indicate patient information was accessed or copied by the hackers, but the possibility could not be ruled out. To date, no reports have been received to suggest any patient information has been improperly used.
The parts of the system that were possibly obtained by the hackers were discovered to contain protected health information including names, addresses, birth dates, Social Security numbers, health insurance information, treatment data, dates of service, diagnosis codes, procedure codes, and the name of the treating dentist.
The incident was reported to law enforcement agencies and the Department of Health and Human Services’Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has been made aware. The OCR breach report indicates 391,472 patients potentially had their PHI accessed.
Sarrell Dental has since put in place new security controls to stop future attacks and network and system monitoring capabilities have been bolstered.
Notification letters were sent to impacted patients on September 12, 2019. Impacted individuals have been offered credit monitoring and identity theft protection services for 12 months at no cost to them.