Community Health Systems Hacked — Confidentiality of 4.5 Million Compromised
Community Health Systems, which operates more than 200 hospitals nationwide, announced earlier that hackers had breached their security system and gained access to the confidential records of 4.5 million patients who had been treated at their facilities over the last five years. Included in the confidential information now in the hands of the hackers: name, social security numbers, street address, date of birth and telephone numbers. This is the exact information needed by those involved in identity theft efforts across the country. With the stolen information, hackers (or those they sell the information to) will be able to attempt to open bank accounts, apply for loans and wreak havoc with personal credit histories.
Although hospital officials are working closely with the Federal Bureau of Investigation on this specific breach, the hackers gained access months ago – sometime between April and June – and have been able to use the information since that time. In what has become too commonplace for comfort, taking every reasonable step to protect your identity and your confidential information makes more sense than ever. More than 16.6 million people were victims of identity theft in 2012, with a loss of nearly $25 million and utter destruction of those individual’s peace of mind.
The Better Business Bureau and the Office of the Inspector General of the Social Security Administration are some of the agencies offering advice if this happens to you, but among the most common pieces of advice: contact the credit reporting agencies on a regular basis to review your information – each agency allows one free annual inquiry, use unique passwords – especially for banking and financial transactions, do not provide confidential information over the telephone unless you have initiated the call and do not carry documents with confidential information on them (or carry as few as possible) unless absolutely necessary.
This problem isn’t going away. Be prepared and be vigilant.