TRICARE, the U.S. military health program, has reported a massive breach affecting protected health information for 4.9 million patients in 10 states treated in San Antonio military facilities between 1992 and Sept. 7, 2011.

Contractor Science Applications International Corp. on Sept. 14 reported to TRICARE the loss of back-up tapes. Data on the tapes included names, addresses, phone numbers, clinical notes, laboratory tests, prescriptions and Social Security numbers, but no financial information.

"The risk of harm to patients is judged to be low despite the data elements involved since retrieving the data on the tapes would require knowledge of and access to specific hardware and software, and knowledge of the system and data structure," TRICARE says in a public statement issued on Sept. 29.

Consequently, TRICARE is encouraging affected patients to visit a Federal Trade Commission Web site to place a free fraud alert on their credit for 90 days and monitor their credit. TRICARE is not presently offering free credit and fraud protection services because of the low risk to the breached information. A TRICARE spokesperson says further investigation will determine whether additional safeguards are necessary. If credit and fraud protection services are offered, SAIC will pay the costs.


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