City of Philadelphia Announces Hack, Potentially Exposing City Emails

  • By Steven
  • Published: Oct 25, 2023
  • Last Updated: Oct 26, 2023

City of Philadelphia Announces Hack

Philly is the most populous city in the United States, hosting more than 1.5 million residents within its borders. The City employs around 30,000 people, fulfilling over 1,000 job categories. Recently, the City discovered suspicious activity within its email system, leading to potential information exposures of those with accessible accounts. If you have a city email account, your information could be at risk for misuse.

How Did the Attack Occur? 

The City of Philadelphia’s Privacy Incident report gives little information about the attack or how it was able to happen. The report describes the attack as “suspicious activity in its email environment,” which impacted particular email accounts. Although there are a lot of unknowns about the attack, we might speculate about the language used in the report. It’s not immediately clear if the attack occurred following a security vulnerability or a hacking assault; it could be the attack after a successful phishing plot or from opportunistic actors taking advantage of permission misconfigurations. 

What Information Was Viewed or Stolen? 

The data at risk are from accounts presumably associated with the City—although not all are at risk for exposure. The incident report lists some medical information within the accessed accounts. Impacted data may vary between accounts and individuals, yet the report lists some data types, demographic data like name, Social Security Number (SSN), and date of birth; medical data like diagnoses and treatment-related credentials; and financial data like claims reports. If the attackers accessed your data during this breach, it’s not too late to take preventative actions. 

How Did the City of Philadelphia Admit to the Breach? 

There is conflicting information about the period leading up to the City’s breach discovery. The incident report claims the breach occurred between May 26th, 2023, and July 28th, 2023; however, some resources purport the breach happened as early as March 2023. Despite the conflicting details, the incident report states the City discovered the suspicious activity on or around May 24th, 2023. Three months later, on or around August 22nd, the City recognized that threat actors may have accessed some emails. On October 20th, the City published its Privacy Incident report, although the investigation is ongoing. 

What Will Become of the Stolen Information? 

We don’t know who launched the attack, their goals, or if they succeeded; subsequently, predicting how they might misuse any stolen credentials is challenging. We can speculate how malicious actors might use the stolen data based on the details that the assailants potentially accessed. For example, a person’s name and SSN may be enough for opportunists to impersonate another or commit identity fraud. Medical data can be misused to obtain services or access an internal network. Misused financial details can result in various consequences, including claims, credit, and banking fraud. No matter what becomes of the details, you could be at risk if your data is exposed.

What Should Affected Parties Do in the Aftermath of the Breach? 

Though the investigation is ongoing, impacted parties can take action to defend themselves before being notified of the exposure. If you’ve had a City of Philadelphia email account since March 2023, consider taking steps to guard yourself. You can prevent most unwanted attacks from occurring by monitoring your information. Guard yourself by investing in an identity, credit, and medical record monitoring service that can detect suspicious activity the moment it happens. Also, avoid giving away personal information over email or text, especially when speaking with a stranger.

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