National Behavioral Health Clinic Suffers Ransomware

  • By Steven
  • Nov 03, 2023

Deer Oaks Behavioral Health is a national provider of mental health based in San Antonio, Texas. They offer the nation long-term care focused on psychiatry and psychology. Deer Oaks hosts more than 1,500 facilities nationwide. Their services include medication and medical treatment planning while spearheading new techniques for rural tele-behavioral health. Deer Oaks recently notified the Maine Attorney General’s Office of a ransomware attack, potentially exposing over 170,000 patient records.

Behavioral Health Clinic Ransomware attack


How Did the Attack Occur? 

The consumer notice provided to Maine suggests the cyberattack involved a section of Deer Oak’s computer systems; an unauthorized actor somehow entered the system and stole significant amounts of patient information before the security software activated. The security software isolated the attacker to a single segment of the system before expelling them. The Deer Oaks website notice also shares sparse information about the attack—leading the public to speculate. Unfortunately, nothing else is public about the attack or how the assailants made it happen. 

What Information Was Viewed or Stolen? 

Although the public notices lack details about how the attack happened, they clearly state specific patient information. The stolen information involves some combination of the following: treatment service types, insurance information, diagnosis codes, Social Security Number (SSN), birthday, address, and full name. Additionally, the threat actor may have gained access to some financial information based on the consumer notice’s response suggestions. Altogether, the attackers may have discovered everything they need to commit fraud or create profitable opportunities for themselves. 

How Did Deer Oaks Behavioral Health Admit to the Breach? 

According to their website notice, the attack timeline started September 1st, 2023. Their cybersecurity software then found and expelled the attacker quickly. They launched internal investigations, which finished on September 29th; before completion of their investigation, they began sending notices to those potentially impacted on or around October 31st. Deer Oaks also began implementing stricter security protocols during this time. On September 31st, they published the website notice and began notifying the Attorney General’s offices. Patients with potentially exposed details should take immediate action to help mitigate the misuse of future information.

What Will Become of the Stolen Information? 

We cannot say what will become of the stolen information because we know nothing about the attackers or their motivations. Further, although we know the cyberattack involved ransomware, the scope of the threat remains unknown; if the threat actor had gained more information, the clinic could be risking more than what they listed in the notices. The actor could leverage the patient data as “proof of breach,” or they could release it for malicious reasons. Less insidious actors could sell the patient records online or to third parties in bulk. No matter what the threat actors decide to do next—you can take steps to safeguard your information.

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

Deer Oak’s breach may have enormous implications for the 171,871 patients potentially exposed during the attack. The clinic suggests considering monitoring services to help mitigate potential issues—monitoring may not be enough, however. Patients should also employ new account details wherever possible, updating accounts with new email addresses or generate strong passwords. Patients should also enable multi-factor authentication settings despite their inconvenience. Patients with leaked data following this breach must take precautions to help defend their data and future.

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