PHI of 37,000 Gold Coast Health Plan Members Potentially Compromised

Camarillo, CA-based Gold Coast Health Plan is informing approximately 37,000 plan members that some of their protected health information has potentially been obtained by hackers who succeeded in compromising the email account of one of its employees.

The employee was fooled by a phishing email and the attackers gained access to the email account on June 18, 2018. Access remained possible until August 1, 2018. Gold Coast Health Plan discovered the security breach on August 8 and took steps to secure the account and prevent any further remote access.

A leading third-party cybersecurity firm was engaged to conduct an investigation into the breach and assess the scope of the incident and determine whether any patients’ health information was accessed. It was not possible to rule out PHI access and data theft with 100% certainty, although no reports have been received to date that suggest any PHI in the account has been misused.

Gold Coast Health Plan believes the attack was financially motivated and the purpose of the attackers was to gain access to banking information in order to make fraudulent transfers from Gold Coast Health Plan accounts rather than to steal plan members’ data.

The investigation confirmed that the compromised account contained claims data, health plan ID numbers, and the dates medical services had been received by plan members. Some individuals also had their name, birthdate, and/or medical procedure codes exposed. The types of information exposed varied for each patient with many patients only having one or two of the above data elements exposed.

Even though Social Security numbers and financial information was not exposed, Gold Coast Health Plan is offering breach victims a MyIDCare subscription and identity theft protection services through ID Experts without charge.

The breach has prompted Gold Coast Health Plan to implement further security controls to prevent similar breaches from occurring in the future. Those measures include enhanced end user training on security with a specific focus on phishing, increased monitoring of email accounts, and enhancements to email security controls.

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.