US hospital cyberattack involved sensitive data on 4.5 million people

UCLA Health claims there's no evidence yet that hackers accessed names, birth dates and medical ID numbers

An entrance to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, which is part of UCLA Health. On July 17, UCLA Health said it was targeted in a cyberattack that involves data on 4.5 million people.

An entrance to Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, which is part of UCLA Health. On July 17, UCLA Health said it was targeted in a cyberattack that involves data on 4.5 million people.

A hack targeting UCLA Health's computer network may have exposed personal and medical data on 4.5 million people.

The attack tapped into parts of the system where sensitive details like names, birth dates and health plan identification numbers are kept, though there's no evidence yet that the information was "actually accessed or acquired," UCLA Health said Friday.

UCLA Health, which operates four hospitals in the Los Angeles area, noticed strange activity on its network in October. UCLA Health and the FBI looked into the incident and initially believed attackers had not accessed network servers that stored personal data.

However, in May UCLA Health and investigators realized hackers had been in part of the network containing personal data including Social Security numbers, medical record numbers, Medicare numbers and some medical information. UCLA Health didn't immediately reply to questions asking if the data was encrypted.

Since UCLA Health "cannot conclusively rule out the possibility that the attackers may have accessed this information," the care provider is notifying affected individuals. They'll be offered a year of identity theft recovery and credit monitoring, among other services.

Health care records are lucrative targets for hackers since they contain personal information that can be used to commit fraud; not just credit-card fraud, but theft of medical services under someone else's name. A pilfered health care record can fetch between US$20 and $200 in underground markets. Additionally, health care organizations often lack the robust IT security measures found in banking and retail, industries that have weathered many cyberattacks.

Other health care organizations that have been hacked recently include insurance companies Anthem and Premera.

Fred O'Connor writes about IT careers and health IT for The IDG News Service. Follow Fred on Twitter at @fredjoconnor. Fred's e-mail address is fred_o'

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