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93,000 Files Belonging to California Addiction Treatment Center Exposed Online

An AWS S3 storage bucket belonging to Sunshine Behavioral Health, LLC, a San Juan Capistrano, CA-based network of drug and alcohol addiction rehabilitation centers, has been misconfigured, resulting in the exposure of sensitive patient information.

The misconfigured AWS S3 bucket was initially reported to databreaches.net in August 2019. Sunshine Behavioral Health was contacted and the bucket was secured; however, the data exposure does not appear to have been reported to the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights, there is no breach report on the California Attorney General’s website, and no mention of the breach on the Sunshine Behavioral Health website, even though it has been more than 60 days since Sunshine Behavioral Health was made aware of the breach.

Dissent of databreaches.net followed up on the breach in November and discovered that files were still exposed. The URLs of the PDF files in the bucket were still accessible and could be viewed without the need for a password. If the URLs had been obtained while the bucket was exposed, the PDF files could have been accessed and downloaded. In total, 93,000 patient files were stored in the S3 bucket.

According to Dissent, the files did not correspond to 93,000 patients. Some patients had multiple files and some of the files appeared to contain test data or were templates. Further contact was made with Sunshine Behavioral Health, but no reply was received, although the email was read as the URLs are no longer accessible.

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It is unclear for how long the files were exposed online and whether they were accessed by unauthorized individuals during that time. The files were mostly billing records, some of which contained full names, birth dates, email addresses, postal addresses, telephone numbers, full credit card numbers, partial expiry dates, full CVV codes, and health insurance information.

UPDATE: On December 12, 2019, the incident as reported to the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights. The breach summary indicates 3,500 patients were affected.

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.