Another Mega Data Breach

In what is being described as potentially the largest breach of a health care company to-date, health insurer Anthem has confirmed that it has been targeted in a very sophisticated external cyber attack.

The New York Times reports that hackers were able to breach a company database that contained as many as 80 million records of current and former Anthem customers, as well as employees, including its chief executive officer.

Early reports here and here suggest the attack compromised personal information such as names, birthdays, medical IDs/social security numbers, street addresses, email addresses and employment information, including income data.

On a website — www.AnthemFacts.com — set up to respond to questions, Anthem noted that there is no evidence that credit card or medical information, such as claims, test results or diagnostic codes were targeted or compromised.

Anthem said the breach was discovered on January 27 and that the company is fully cooperating with the FBI investigation. The health insurer has been praised for its initial response in promptly notifying the FBI after observing suspicious activity.

An  FBI statement quoted in an LA Times article noted:

Anthem’s initial response in promptly notifying the FBI after observing suspicious network activity is a model for other companies and organizations facing similar circumstances. Speed matters when notifying law enforcement of an intrusion, as cyber criminals can quickly destroy critical evidence needed to identify those responsible.”

On the dedicated website, Anthem president and CEO, Joseph R Swedish, offered a personal apology to members. Anthem has also established a toll-free number — 1-877-263-7995 FREE — that both current and former members can call if they have questions related to the breach.

In 2014, the medical/healthcare sector accounted for 42 percent of data breaches — the largest among industry sectors — as reported by the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC).

In fact, breaches in the medical/healthcare industry have accounted for the largest percentage of data breaches by industry sector since 2012, which ITRC attributes primarily to the mandatory reporting requirement for healthcare breaches to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).

If the estimate of 80 million records compromised holds, this will put the Anthem data breach up there with recent mega breaches of 2014 such as eBay (145 million people affected), JP Morgan (76 million households and 7 million small businesses affected) and Home Depot (56 million unique payment cards).

While 2014 was dubbed the year of the mega breach, the Ponemon Institute recently warned that 2015 is predicted to be as bad or worse as more sensitive and confidential information and transactions are moved to the digital space and become vulnerable to attack.

As of January 27, 2015, some 455,377 records had been exposed in 64 breaches reported to the ITRC. This followed a record high of 783 U.S. data breaches exposing 85.6 million records tracked by the ITRC in 2014.

For an analysis of cyber risk and insurance, download this Insurance Information Institute (I.I.I.) white paper.

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