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Phishing Attack on Florida Agency for Health Care Administration Impacts 30,000 Medicaid Recipients

The Agency for Health Care Administration in Florida has discovered an unauthorized individual has gained access to a single email account as a result of an employee falling for a phishing scam.

The employee received and responded to the malicious phishing email on November 15, 2017 and disclosed login credentials that allowed the attacker to remotely access his/her email account and, potentially, the protected health information of as many as 30,000 Medicaid enrollees.

The agency discovered the security breach on November 20 and performed a password reset to prevent further access. The incident was also reported to the agency’s inspector general, who launched an investigation into the attack. Preliminary findings of that investigation were released late last week.

According to an agency press release issued on Friday, the unauthorized individual may have partially or fully accessed information such as names, Medicaid ID numbers, addresses, dates of birth, diagnoses, medical conditions, and Social Security numbers. Approximately 6% of individuals impacted by the incident had either their Medicaid ID or Social Security number exposed.

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While data access was possible, Florida’s Agency for Health Care Administration has not uncovered any evidence to suggest the compromised protected health information has been misused. Since sensitive information has potentially been viewed and stolen, individuals impacted by the incident have been told to be vigilant and check their accounts for signs of fraudulent activity. All individuals impacted by the breach have been offered complimentary credit monitoring services for 12 months.

Prior to the phishing attack, the Florida Agency for Health Care Administration had implemented an ongoing staff training program, although the incident has prompted a review of that program and staff have now been reeducated on proper security protocols and the dangers of phishing. The agency is also considering additional security controls to reduce the risk from phishing in the future.

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.