Phishing attack jeopardizes patient info at Medical College of Wisconsin

Breach occurred in July after some faculty and staff members were misled and shared network info.

The Medical College of Wisconsin is in the later stages of resolving issues related to a July hack attack that compromised the protected health information of about 9,500 patients, according to officials at the school.

In July, a small number of faculty and staff members were victimized by spear phishing attacks; in these attacks, a hacker sends emails to individuals under a legitimate employee name and fools one or more recipients into revealing security information about the network.

It has not been publicly announced when the college became aware of the breach; when it did, it immediately disabled affected email accounts, changed passwords, launched an investigation and hired a computer forensics firm to assess the extent of the breach and the security of email accounts. The firm learned the breach occurred during one week in July, but could not definitely conclude if staff or patient information was actually acquired by the hacker.

Also See: Why spear phishing hacks are so successful

Compromised information included patient names, home addresses, dates of birth, medical record numbers, health insurance information, dates of service, surgical information, diagnosis or condition, and other treatment information.

Medical College of Wisconsin is not aware of any instances of identity theft or improper use of patient information, and the organization has provided affected patients with information on best practices to protect their information.

However, 34 patients with compromised Social Security numbers and one patient with a compromised bank account are being offered credit monitoring and identity theft restoration services. The organization did not disclose the name of the protective services vendor or the duration of credit/ID protection, which generally is offered for one or two years.

The Medical College of Wisconsin did not immediately respond to a request for additional details about the incident.

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