Recently, Virginia Mason Medical Center confirmed that the hospital was the target of an email phishing campaign, resulting in the sensitive information of certain employees and patients being compromised.
If you received a data breach notification, it is essential you understand what is at risk. The data breach lawyers at Console & Associates, P.C. are actively investigating the Virginia Mason Medical Center data breach on behalf of people whose information was exposed. As a part of this investigation, we are providing free consultations to anyone affected by the breach who is interested in learning more about the risks of identity theft, what they can do to protect themselves, and what their legal options may be to obtain compensation from Virginia Mason Medical Center.
Last year, 1,862 data breaches affected more than 189 million people. On average, victims of identity theft spend 200 hours and over $1,300 recovering their identity. Many victims also suffer emotional distress, credit damage, and may even end up with a criminal record. Taking immediate action is the best way to prevent the worst consequences of a data breach.
What We Know So Far About the Virginia Mason Medical Center Data Breach
According to a notice posted on the company’s website, VMMC recently detected unauthorized activity on its computer network. In response, VMMC investigated the incident to learn more about its causes and whether any employee or patient data was exposed as a result. The investigation confirmed that between December 21, 2021 and January 3, 2022, an unauthorized user had access to several staff email accounts. On January 18, 2022, VMMC learned that certain patients’ protected health information was accessible to the unauthorized party during this time.
Upon learning of the extent of the security breach, Virginia Mason Medical Center then reviewed the affected email accounts to determine what information was compromised. While the compromised information varies based on the consumer, it may include name, Social Security Number, passport information, driver’s license, or health insurance number, address, date of birth, dates of service, medical record numbers, and clinical information about medical treatment or diagnoses.
On around March 14, 2022, Virginia Mason Medical Center began sending out data breach notification letters to all individuals whose information was compromised as a result of the recent data security incident.
Virginia Mason Medical Center is a hospital located in Seattle, Washington, and part of the Virginia Mason Franciscan Health network. Other hospitals in the network include Virginia Mason Medical Center, St. Anne Hospital, St. Anthony Hospital, St. Clare Hospital, St. Elizabeth Hospital, St. Francis Hospital, St. Joseph Medical Center, St. Michael Medical Center, Rehabilitation Hospital, and Wellfound Behavioral Health Hospital. Virginia Mason Franciscan Health network employs more than 5,500 people and generates annual revenue of approximately $1 billion.
More About the Causes and Risks of Data Breaches
Often, data breaches are the result of a hacker gaining unauthorized access to a company’s computer systems with the intention of obtaining sensitive consumer information. While no one can know the reason why a hacker targeted VMMC, it is common for hackers and other criminals to identify those companies believed to have weak data security systems or vulnerabilities in their networks.
Once a cybercriminal gains access to a computer network, they can then access and remove any data stored on the compromised servers. While in most cases a company experiencing a data breach can identify which files were accessible, there may be no way for the company to tell which files the hacker actually accessed or whether they removed any data.
While the fact that your information was compromised in a data breach does not necessarily mean it will be used for criminal purposes, being the victim of a data breach puts your sensitive data in the hands of an unauthorized person. As a result, you are at an increased risk of identity theft and other frauds, and criminal use of your information is a possibility that should not be ignored.
Given this reality, individuals who receive a Virginia Mason Medical Center data breach notification should take the situation seriously and remain vigilant in checking for any signs of unauthorized activity. Businesses like VMMC are responsible for protecting the consumer data in their possession. If evidence emerges that VMMC failed to adequately protect your sensitive information, you may be eligible for financial compensation through a data breach lawsuit.
What Are Consumers’ Remedies in the Wake of the VMMC Data Breach?
When customers decided to do business with VMMC, they assumed that the company would take their privacy concerns seriously. And it goes without saying that consumers would think twice before giving a company access to their information if they knew it wasn’t going to be secure. Thus, data breaches such as this one raise questions about the adequacy of a company’s data security system.
When a business, government entity, non-profit organization, school, or any other organization accepts and stores consumer data, it also accepts a legal obligation to ensure this information remains private. The United States data breach laws allow consumers to pursue civil data breach claims against organizations that fail to protect their information.
Of course, given the recency of the Virginia Mason Medical Center data breach, the investigation into the incident is still in its early stages. And, as of right now, there is not yet any evidence suggesting VMMC is legally responsible for the breach. However, that could change as additional information about the breach and its causes is revealed.
If you have questions about your ability to bring a data breach class action lawsuit against Virginia Mason Medical Center, reach out to a data breach attorney as soon as possible.
What Should You Do if You Receive a Virginia Mason Medical Center Data Breach Notification?
If Virginia Mason Medical Center sends you a data breach notification letter, you are among those whose information was compromised in the recent breach. While this isn’t a time to panic, the situation warrants your attention. Below are a few important steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft and other fraudulent activity:
Identify What Information Was Compromised: The first thing to do after learning of a data breach is to carefully review the data breach letter sent. The letter will tell you what information of yours was accessible to the unauthorized party. Be sure to make a copy of the letter and keep it for your records. If you have trouble understanding the letter or what steps you can take to protect yourself, a data breach lawyer can help.
Limit Future Access to Your Accounts: Once you determine what information of yours was affected by the breach, the safest play is to assume that the hacker orchestrating the attack stole your data. While this may not be the case, it’s better to be safe than sorry. To prevent future access to your accounts, you should change all passwords and security questions for any online account. This includes online banking accounts, credit card accounts, online shopping accounts, and any other account containing your personal information. You should also consider changing your social media account passwords and setting up multi-factor authentication where it is available.
Protect Your Credit and Your Financial Accounts: After a data breach, companies often provide affected parties with free credit monitoring services. Signing up for the free credit monitoring offers some significant protections and doesn’t impact any of your rights to pursue a data breach lawsuit against the company if it turns out they were legally responsible for the breach. You should contact a credit bureau to request a copy of your credit report—even if you do not notice any signs of fraud or unauthorized activity. Adding a fraud alert to your account will provide you with additional protection.
Consider Implementing a Credit Freeze: A credit freeze prevents anyone from accessing your credit report. Credit freezes are free and stay in effect until you remove them. Once a credit freeze is in place, you can temporarily lift the freeze if you need to apply for any type of credit. While placing a credit freeze on your accounts may seem like overkill, given the risks involved, it’s justified. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center (“ITRC”), placing a credit freeze on your account is the “single most effective way to prevent a new credit/financial account from being opened.” However, just 3% of data breach victims place a freeze on their accounts.
Regularly Monitor Your Credit Report and Financial Accounts: Protecting yourself in the wake of a data breach requires an ongoing effort on your part. You should regularly check your credit report and all financial account statements, looking for any signs of unauthorized activity or fraud. You should also call your banks and credit card companies to report the fact that your information was compromised in a data breach.
Below is a copy of the data breach notice posted on the Virginia Mason Medical Center website:
The health and safety of Virginia Mason Medical Center (VMMC) patients, staff and community is our top priority. VMMC takes the protection and proper use of patient and employee information very seriously. We are notifying the public about a data security incident that may have exposed some patient and employee personal information.
An unauthorized person may have accessed some of VMMC’s staff email accounts between December 21, 2021 and January 3, 2022 through an email Phishing event. VMMC initiated an investigation and reviewed the contents of the emails to determine if sensitive information was within those accounts. On January 18, 2022, VMMC determined that protected health information was present in some of the emails. The event impacted just under 3,000 individuals.
What information was involved?
The information may have involved protected health information and employee information, including name, address, date of birth, dates of service, medical record numbers, and clinical information about medical treatment or diagnoses. For a handful of individuals, the information may have involved Social Security Number, passport information, driver’s license, or health insurance number. Patients and employees will be notified as required by HIPAA and state law.
What we are doing.
VMMC conducted a thorough investigation of the events. Blocks to the phishing domain were quickly put in place, credentials and passwords were reset, and suspicious activity was quarantined. Staff will be reeducated on steps to ensure the security of protected information and to guard against phishing attacks. VMMC reviewed every email involved to determine the information that may have been present. We have no evidence that the information was actually accessed or left our system, but out of an abundance of caution, we are notifying you of the situation.
To help relieve concerns and restore confidence following this incident, we have secured the services of Kroll to provide notification and in some cases, identity monitoring at no cost to affected patients’ and employees. Kroll has extensive experience helping people who have sustained an unintentional exposure of confidential data.
What you can do.
Though we have no evidence that the information has been misused, it is always prudent to review your health care statements for accuracy and report any services or charges that you did not incur to your provider or insurance carrier.
VMMC regrets this event and any concern it may cause. We strive to always maintain the privacy and security of our patients’ and employees’ protected information.
If you need more information about this event, we have retained Kroll, a trusted partner, to manage a call center that can answer specific questions about this event. To contact Kroll, please call 1-855-541-3571, Monday through Friday from 8:00 a.m. to 5:30 p.m. Central Time. Media questions should be directed to the Media Hotline: 253-382-3889; firstname.lastname@example.org.