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Almost 20,000 Patients Affected by Owens Ear Center Ransomware Attack

Owens Ear Center in Fort Worth, TX, suffered a ransomware attack on May 28, 2020 in which patient information was encrypted. The computer systems that were encrypted contained patients’ medical records, which included information such as names, addresses, dates of birth, health insurance information, health information, and Social Security numbers.

Many ransomware attacks on healthcare organizations see healthcare data stolen before it is encrypted. These double extortion attacks require a ransom to be paid in order to decrypt files and prevent the sale or publication of the stolen data. Owens Ear Center investigated the attack and found no evidence to indicate patient information was accessed or copied prior to file encryption and believes this was solely an attempt to extort money from the practice and that the attackers were not interested in patient data.

However, since unauthorized data access could not be ruled out, all affected patients have been notified and, out of an abundance of caution, have been offered complimentary identity theft protection services. Steps have since been taken to improve defenses against ransomware attacks.

According to the breach summary on the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights breach portal, the PHI of 19,908 patients was encrypted in the attack.

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Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation Affected by Blackbaud Inc. Ransomware Attack

Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh Foundation has been notified by one of its business associates that the protected health information of some of its patients has potentially been accessed by unauthorized individuals.

Blackbaud Inc., a provider of customer relationship management systems for non-profit organizations, suffered a ransomware attack and a file containing limited patient data was accessed by the attacker. The incident occurred between February 7, 2020 and May 20, 2020.

The file contained information such as patients’ names, addresses, birth dates and other general demographic data. Blackbaud paid the ransom and was able to recover its data. Blackbaud does not believe any data was shared with any third party or was made public.

Blackbaud was able to quickly identify and correct the vulnerability that was exploited, and security of its IT systems has been hardened, including making improvements to access management, network segmentation, and the deployment of additional endpoint and network-based platforms.

Email Account Breach Identified by Premier Healthcare Partners

Premier Healthcare Partners in Dayton, OH has discovered an unauthorized individual has gained access to the email accounts of some of its employees and potentially viewed or obtained the protected health information of certain patients of the Clinical Neuroscience Institute, Help Me Grow Brighter Futures, Samaritan Behavioral Health Inc. (SBHI), and CompuNet Clinical Laboratories.

Upon discovery of the breach the accounts were immediately secured, and an investigation was launched to determine the nature and scope of the breach. The breach was detected on June 8, 2020 and it was confirmed on July 17 that email accounts had been accessed by an individual with no connection to Premier Healthcare Partners.

A comprehensive review of the breached email accounts is currently underway and affected patients will be notified if their PHI has been exposed when the review has been completed. At this stage, no evidence has been found to indicate PHI has been accessed, copied, or misused.

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.