Hacking Incidents Dominate 2017 Health Data Breach Tally

Incidents involving hackers are dominating the federal tally of health data breaches for 2017, a trend some security experts expect to continue. A Nov. 1 snapshot of the HHS "Wall of Shame" shows 388 breaches impacting more than 4.6 million people have been added to the tally so far in 2017. 123 breaches were reported as hacking/IT incidents, impacting a total of 3.2 million individuals.

Top Breaches Added to Tally in 2017

Breached Entity Individuals Affected Type of Breach

Commonwealth Health Corp. 698,000 Theft

Airway Oxygen Inc. 500,000 Hacking/IT Incident

Women's Health Care Group of PA 300,000 Hacking/IT Incident

Urology Austin 280,000 Hacking/IT Incident

Pacific Alliance Medical Center 266,000 Hacking/IT Incident

102 incidents affecting a total of nearly 447,000 individuals are listed as "unauthorized access/disclosure" incidents. Some of those incidents involve insiders or accidents - such as email being sent to the wrong recipients - some others, such as phishing incidents, involve hackers.

Only 34 breaches impacting 171,610 individuals were reported as involving lost or stolen unencrypted computing devices or portable electronic devices. Until about 2015, the wall of shame regularly showed that the most common cause of major breaches was the loss or theft of unencrypted devices.

The No. 1 breach, in terms of the total number of individuals affected, involved the theft of encrypted storage media at Med Center Health. That incident, affecting 698,000 individuals, involved a former Med Center Health employee who allegedly obtained patient information on an encrypted CD and encrypted USB drive, "without any work-related reason to do so," the company stated.

The largest hacking/IT incident posted this year on the federal tally was a ransomware attack affecting 500,000 individuals reported by Airway Oxygen, Inc., a provider of oxygen therapy and home-health equipment. The largest health data breach appearing on the federal tally is the cyberattack reported in 2015 by health plan Anthem Inc., impacting nearly 79 million people.

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