Hundreds of Thousands of Records Stolen from Washington Cancer Center

  • Jan 03, 2024

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center

Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center (FHCC) is a three-location care network that delivers solutions for cancer patients. They are an independent organization that provides experience for the University of Washington’s Medicine programs. FHCC’s multiple locations allow for over 400 treatment trials, giving even patients with advanced diagnoses hope for the future. Three state attorney generals have published breach filings concerning FHCC; in November, assailants accessed their network and stole the information of thousands of patients.

How Did the Attack Occur? 

The data security incident published on the FHCC website offers the most information about the event; according to it, an unauthorized party accessed FHCC’s network and captured information related to patients from the system. Officials discovered the attack after finding unauthorized activity within some areas of the clinical network. None of the resources indicate how the bad actors made the attack possible; however, FHCC also has a notice of lost technology on its website. Whether the two events are connected is unclear, as the notice suggests the data within can be erased “if” it connects to the internet. However, the tech hasn’t come online; thus, they cannot definitively state if the data within the tech is compromised or connected to the breach.

What Information Was Viewed or Stolen? 

The Montana Attorney General’s Office published a consumer notice sample displaying data elements potentially compromised in the event. The data significantly includes patient information, but specific instances of exposure differ between individuals. Data potentially involved in this breach include names, addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, birthdays, Social Security Numbers, patient account numbers, medical record details, provider names, lab results, and diagnosis/treatment details. The notice further states that the assailants did not access the FHCC medical record system, MyChart, or affiliate platforms.

How Did Fred Hutch Cancer Center Admit to the Breach? 

FHCC first gave a press release around November 19th, 2023. They outlined the events up to then and mapped out the proceeding investigation. The concluding report indicated that the unauthorized actor accessed the network from November 19th to November 25th. After expelling the bad actor, officials worked to review the scope of the event. Their current website press notice suggests officials sent letters around December 20th.

What Will Become of the Stolen Information? 

The regulator notice published on Washington State’s breach filing suggests the breach may impact at least 270,597 residents. However, the breach has also impacted Oregon, Montana, and California residents. Subsequently, 270k is likely the low side of the overall impact figure. Until Maine or the DHHS publish filings, the final breach number remains unclear. 

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

Patients with data exposed to this breach must take preventative steps. Their data is helpful for many criminal activities, including financial and medical fraud, identity theft, and impersonation. Consequently, patients must begin securing their accounts by changing passwords and contact data wherever possible while enabling high-level security procedures like multi-factor authentications. They must also request an up-to-date Explanation of Benefits and insurer statements from their providers quarterly or biannually. For even more security, they should invest in medical ID monitoring services; the right monitor will assist victims in mitigating damages. Don’t wait for a physical notice to start protecting yourself—preventative measures are an instant way to safeguard your investments.

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