PHI of 326,000 Patients Exposed UConn Health Phishing Attack

UConn Health is making contact with almost 326,000 clients that some of their personal data was accessible due to a phishing attack on some of its staff members.

UConn Health discovered the phishing breach on December 24, 2018. All email accounts were protected, and an internal investigation was kicked off. The investigation revealed that a number of email accounts had been accessed by unauthorized people.

An external computer forensics firm was contracted to investigate the attack and search for protected health information in emails and email attachments in the compromised staff email accounts. While it was not possible to deduce who was to blame for the attack nor whether emails and email attachments in the compromised accounts had been accessed by the attacker(s), PHI access could not be eliminated.

UConn Health outlined in its substitute breach notice that no reports have been submitted to indicate any patient information has been improperly used.

Most individuals impacted by the attack were patients. Some staff members have also had personal data exposed. Information included in the compromised email accounts was restricted to names, addresses, dates of birth, and some clinical data, such as appointment dates and billing details. Around 1,500 Social Security numbers were also potentially accessed.

All patients whose private health information may have been accessed by the hackers have been alerted by mail. Complimentary identity theft protection services have been provided to patients whose Social Security number was accessed.

UConn Health is assessing its technical controls to stop phishing attacks and is still evaluating additional security training platforms to better train staff with regard to phishing and other cybersecurity threats.

In January, the University of Connecticut alerted students to be alert to the danger of phishing attacks after a spate of spam and phishing emails received by students over the past few months, some of which pretended to be UConn mail service. It remains unknown whether the warning was linked to the email breach at UConn Health.

The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights (OCR) has been made aware of the breach. A breach notification has been published that say up to 326,629 patients have been impacted by the breach.