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Quest Health Systems Discovers Additional Patients Impacted by 2018 Phishing Attack

Health Quest, now part of Nuvance Health, has discovered the phishing attack it experienced in July 2018 was more extensive than previously thought.

Several employees were tricked into disclosing their email credentials by phishing emails, which allowed unauthorized individuals to access their accounts. A leading cybersecurity firm was engaged to assist with the investigation and determine whether any patient information had been compromised.

In May 2019, Quest Health learned that the protected health information of 28,910 patients was contained in emails and attachments in the affected accounts and notification letters were sent to those individuals. The compromised accounts contained patient names, contact information, claims information, and some health data.

A secondary investigation of the breach revealed on October 25, 2019 that another employee’s email account was compromised which contained protected health information. According to the substitute breach notification on the Quest Health website, the compromised information varied from patient to patient, but may have included one or more of the following data elements in addition to names:

Dates of birth, Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, Medicare Health Insurance Claim Numbers (HICNs), provider name(s), dates of treatment, treatment and diagnosis information, health insurance plan member and group numbers, health insurance claims information, financial account information with PIN/security code, and payment card information.

No evidence of unauthorized viewing of patient data was uncovered and no reports have been received to indicate any patient information was misused. Out of an abundance of caution additional letters were mailed to patients on January 10, 2020.

Quest Health is now using multi-factor authentication on its email accounts and has strengthened security processes and provided additional training to its HQ employees on phishing and other cybersecurity issues.

It is currently unclear how many additional patients have been affected. At the time of posting, the breach report on the HHS’ Office for Civil Rights breach portal still states 28,910 individuals were impacted.

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.