HIPAA Journal is the leading provider of news, updates, and independent advice for HIPAA compliance

9,500 Patients Impacted by Medical College of Wisconsin Phishing Attack

A Medical College of Wisconsin phishing attack has resulted in the exposure of approximately 9,500 patients’ protected health information. The attackers managed to gain access to several employees’ email accounts, which contained a range of sensitive information of patients and some faculty staff.

The types of information in the compromised email accounts included names, addresses, medical record numbers, dates of birth, health insurance details, medical diagnoses, treatment information, surgical information, and dates of service. A very limited number of individuals also had their Social Security numbers and bank account information exposed.

The incident occurred over the space of a week in the summer between July 21 and July 28 when spear phishing emails were sent to specific individuals at the Medical College of Wisconsin. Responding to those emails resulted in the attackers gaining access to email login credentials.

Medical College of Wisconsin brought in a computer forensics firm to conduct an investigation into the phishing attack, and while that investigation established that access to the email accounts was gained by unauthorized individuals, it was not possible to determine whether emails containing protected health information had been accessed or viewed, or if any sensitive information was stolen. Since the attack occurred, no reports of misuse of patient information have been received.

To protect individuals against identity theft and fraud, credit monitoring and identity theft restoration services have been offered to breach victims free of charge, but only to those individuals whose Social Security numbers were compromised.

Medical College of Wisconsin reports that in addition to some faculty staff and Medical College of Wisconsin patients, some individuals who received treatment at Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin and Froedtert Health have also been impacted by the breach.

The latest Medical College of Wisconsin phishing attack comes just 10 months after a similar incident resulted in the exposure of 3,200 patients’ protected health information.

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.