Kansas Hospital Alerts Patients to Online Security Breach

Officials at Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Lawrence, Kan., said they are anticipating a federal investigation and possible fine after an online security breach potentially compromised 8,000 patients’ financial information. The* Lawrence Journal World* reported that the hospital mailed letters alerting patients to the problem. The breach apparently occurred Sept. 20 when a company that hosts the hospital’s online bill paying service was upgrading its system. The company apparently left a portal open that contained payment records from 28 patients. That information was accessed by Google, which then cached the page and kept the information public. Hospital officials also believe there was a way to access a database that contained information on every patient who had used the online bill pay system since it was first offered in 2005 from that portal. The hospital learned about the security breach Oct. 28 after a patient using Google to search her husband’s name found his financial information online. The hospital’s general counsel, Andy Ramirez, said the hospital did not own or maintain the computers that operated the online bill pay system. He said the hospital wasn’t hacked and described the situation as a “self-inflicted wound” by the company that hosted the billing service. “Literally, it was like leaving the door to the house open,” said Susan Thomas, the hospital’s compliance management director. She said that if a federal investigation leads to a fine, the vendors most likely would be responsible for paying it because the contract required them to keep patient records private. The hospital has been advising patients to take steps that would make them feel more comfortable — whether it be putting a lock on the account or obtaining a new bank card. Two patients have contacted the hospital so far about charges to their accounts they consider suspicious. “We can’t tell them for sure if this incident is directly responsible for that,” Thomas said, noting that the only way to know is if the account was used only for the hospital’s online billing service. The online bill pay system has been shut down but should return in a few weeks. The hospital already was in the process of switching to a different vendor to provide the online service

Lee Johnstone

Lee Johnstone

Information Security Data Analyst, Investigative Journalist, Technology Lover, Mechanic.

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