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1,900 UVA Patients’ PHI Accessed by Hacker Behind FruitFly Malware

Almost 1,900 patients of University of Virginia Health System are being notified that an unauthorized individual has gained access to their medical records as a result of a malware infection.

The malware had been loaded onto the devices used by a physician at UVa Medical Center. When medical records were accessed by the physician, the malware allowed the hacker to view the data in real time. The malware was first loaded onto the physician’s electronic devices on May 3, 2015, with access possible until December 27, 2016. Over those 19 months, the hacker was able to view the medical records of 1,882 patients.

The types of information seen by the hacker included names, addresses, dates of birth, diagnoses, and treatment information, according to a UVa spokesperson. Financial information and Social Security numbers were not exposed as they were not accessible by the physician.

Access to the protected health information of its patients stopped in late 2016, although UVa did not discover the breach for almost a year. UVa was notified of the security breach by the FBI on December 23, 2017, following an extensive investigation into the hacker’s activities. Patients impacted by the breach were notified by mail this month.

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UVa has since implemented a number of additional security controls to prevent further incidents of this nature from occurring.

Thousands of Victims’ Sensitive Information Viewed

fruitfly malware

Phillip R. Durachinsky

UVa is only one victim of the hacker. Other businesses were also affected and had information compromised, although the extent of the hacker’s activities have not fully been determined. The FBI investigation is continuing, although the hacker has been arrested and charged in a 16-count indictment for numerous computer offenses including violations of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act and Wiretap Act, in addition to aggregated identity theft and the production of child pornography.

The hacker has been identified as Phillip R. Durachinsky, 28, of North Royalton, Ohio. Durachinsky allegedly developed a Mac malware called FruitFly more than 13 years ago and used the malware to spy on thousands of individuals and companies. The malware provided Durachinsky with full access to an infected device, including access to the webcam. The malware took screenshots, allowed the uploading and downloading of files, and could log keystrokes. Durachinsky also developed the malware to give him a live feed from multiple infected computers simultaneously.

Victims include schools, businesses, healthcare organizations, a police department, and local, state, and federal government officials. Over 13 years, Durachinsky spied on thousands of individuals, mainly using the Mac form of the malware, although a Windows-based variant was also used.

In addition to gaining access to UVa patients records, Durachinsky used the malware to view highly sensitive information of other non-UVa victims. He was able to gain access to financial accounts, photographs, tax records, and internet search histories. Durachinsky also allegedly surreptitiously took photographs of his victims via webcams and kept notes on what he was able to view.

The FBI discovered that an IP address associated with the malware was also used to access Durachinsky’s alumni email account at Case Western Reserve University, which led to his arrest. More than 20 million images were discovered on Durachinsky’s devices by the FBI agents.

Author: Steve Alder is the editor-in-chief of HIPAA Journal. Steve is responsible for editorial policy regarding the topics covered on HIPAA Journal. He is a specialist on healthcare industry legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA and other related legal topics. Steve has developed a deep understanding of regulatory issues surrounding the use of information technology in the healthcare industry and has written hundreds of articles on HIPAA-related topics.