Long-Term Malware Infection Discovered by Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany

In August, while Catholic Charities of the Diocese of Albany (CCDA) was performing an upgrade of its computer security software, malware was discovered to have been installed on one of the computer servers used by its Glens Falls office, which served patients in Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties in New York.

Fast action was taken to block access to the server and CCDA called in a computer security firm to conduct an investigation into the unauthorized access. The investigation, which took several weeks to complete, revealed that access to the server potentially dated back to 2015.

While access to the server was possible and malware had been installed, the investigation did not uncover evidence to suggest the protected health information of patients had been viewed or stolen.

An analysis of the server revealed the stored files contained the protected health information of 4,624 patients. The information potentially accessed by the attackers included names, addresses, birthdates, diagnosis codes, dates of service, and for some patients, their health insurance ID numbers which may have included Social Security numbers. Financial information and details of treatment and therapy were stored elsewhere on the network and were not accessible at any point.

The incident has been reported to law enforcement, the Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights, the Division of Consumer Protection, and the state Attorney General. Patients have been notified of the breach and have been offered credit monitoring and identity theft protection services for one year without charge.

Even when appropriate security solutions are implemented to safeguard the protected health information of patients, breaches can still occur. Sister Charla Commins, CSJ, Executive Director of Catholic Charities of Saratoga, Warren and Washington Counties, explained, “We have modern digital security measures in place, but every day it seems criminals’ intent on invading computer systems find new ways to do so.” Sister Commins also explained, “We take very seriously our responsibility for protecting private information, and we sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause our clients and staff.”

To prevent future malware attacks and intrusions, CCDA has enhanced the security of its servers.

Author: Steve Alder has many years of experience as a journalist, and comes from a background in market research. He is a specialist on legal and regulatory affairs, and has several years of experience writing about HIPAA. Steve holds a B.Sc. from the University of Liverpool.