On August 16, 2018, Augusta University Health submitted a HIPAA Email Breach to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS).
Based in Augusta, Georgia, Augusta University Health’s email breach affected 417,000 individuals’ protected health information.
Augusta University Health is classified as a Healthcare Provider.
According to a statement from Augusta University Health:
Augusta University was targeted by a series of fraudulent emails on Sept. 10-11, 2017. These sophisticated “phishing” emails solicited usernames and passwords, giving attackers access to a small number of internal email accounts.
Upon recognizing the nature of the attack, we acted promptly to stop the intrusion: disabling the impacted email accounts, requiring password changes for the compromised accounts, and maintaining heightened monitoring of the accounts to ensure that no other suspicious activity was taking place.
On July 31, 2018, investigators determined that email accounts accessed earlier by an unauthorized user may have given them access to the personal and protected health information of approximately 417,000 individuals.
Augusta University will mail notification letters via U.S. Mail in the coming weeks to individuals whose information was compromised by this incident (where last known home address was available).
We deeply regret this incident and the concern it has caused our students, employees and patients. In response, we have taken or will be promptly initiating several actions to protect against future incidents, including:
- Installing new leadership in a number of critical areas
- Implementing multifactor authentication for off-campus email and system access
- Review and adoption of solutions to limit email retention
- Implementing policy and procedure changes regarding protected health information in email communications
- Employing software to screen emails for protected health information or personally identifiable information to prevent them from sending
- Increasing employee training on their critical role in preventing security breaches
- Enhancing our compliance-related policies and procedures
WHAT INFORMATION WAS INVOLVED?
In some cases, patient information that may have been contained in compromised email accounts included patient names and one or more of the following: addresses, dates of birth, medical record numbers, medical information, treatment information, surgical information, diagnoses, lab results, medications, dates of service and/or insurance information.
For a small percentage, information that may have been viewed included a Social Security number and/or driver’s license number.
HHS Wall of Shame
The HHS Wall of Shame is a website under the jurisdiction of HHS that lists all HIPAA breaches reported within the last 24 months. The Wall of Shame displays breaches that are currently under investigation by the Office for Civil Rights.
As part of section 13402(e)(4) of the HITECH Act, the HHS Secretary must post a list of breaches of unsecured protected health information affecting 500 or more individuals.
HIPAA Breach Report
The Paubox HIPAA Breach Report analyzes breaches that affected 500 or more individuals as reported in the HHS Wall of Shame.