Recently, University of Michigan Health (“Michigan Medicine”) confirmed that an unauthorized party potentially gained access to the protected health information of As many as 2,900 patients stemming from an employee’s email account becoming compromised. The data breach lawyers at Console & Associates, PC are going to begin interviewing victims of the breach to determine what damages they sustained and what legal claims may be available to them. If you recently learned your information was compromised in the recent breach, reaching out to a data breach lawyer is the first step to understanding all of your options.
What We Know So Far About the Michigan Medicine Data Breach
Michigan Medicine is an academic medical center owned by the University of Michigan. The organization traces its roots back to 1850 when the University of Michigan Medical School first opened its doors in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Michigan Medicine is one of the largest hospitals in Michigan, handling more than 2.4 million outpatient and emergency visits per year. Michigan Medicine employs around 30,000 people, including roughly 3,900 faculty, 6,000 nurses, 1,800 residents and 300 clinical fellows
According to a notice posted on the Michigan Medicine website, on January 6, 2022, an employee noticed suspicious activity on their email account. The employee reported the activity and, it was later determined that on December 23, 2021, the employee’s email account had been compromised. The Michigan Medicine IT department then immediately disabled the email account; However, beginning on January 31, 2022, Michigan Medicine reviewed the employee’s email account to determine what patient information may have been compromised.
On February 15, 2022, Michigan Medicine learned that some of the emails and attachments in the affected account contained certain parties’ names, medical record numbers, addresses, dates of birth, diagnostic and treatment information, and/or health insurance information.
On March 3, 2022, Michigan Medicine posted notice of the data breach on its website. Official data breach letters may be forthcoming.
More About the Causes and Risks of Data Breaches
Often, data breaches are the result of a hacker gaining unauthorized access to an organization’s computer systems with the intention of obtaining sensitive consumer information. While no one can know the reason why a hacker targeted Michigan Medicine, it is common for hackers and other criminals to identify those organizations believed to have weak data security systems or vulnerabilities in their networks.
Once a cybercriminal gains access to a computer network, they can then access and remove any data stored on the compromised servers. While in most cases an organization experiencing a data breach can identify which files were accessible, there may be no way for the organization to tell which files the hacker actually accessed or whether they removed any data.
While the fact that your information was compromised in a data breach does not necessarily mean it will be used for criminal purposes, being the victim of a data breach puts your sensitive data in the hands of an unauthorized person. As a result, you are at an increased risk of identity theft and other frauds, and criminal use of your information is a possibility that should not be ignored.
Given this reality, individuals who receive a Michigan Medicine data check breach notification should take the situation seriously and remain vigilant in for any signs of unauthorized activity. Organizations like Michigan Medicine are responsible for protecting the consumer data in their possession. If evidence emerges that Michigan Medicine has failed to adequately protect your sensitive information, you may be eligible for financial compensation through a data breach lawsuit.
What Are Patients’ Remedies in the Wake of the Michigan Medicine Data Breach?
When patients visited Michigan Medicine for treatment, they assumed that the company would take their privacy concerns seriously. And it goes without saying that consumers would think twice before giving an organization access to their information if they knew it wasn’t going to be secure. Thus, data breaches such as this one raise questions about the adequacy of an organization’s data security system.
When a business, government entity, non-profit organization, school, or any other organization accepts and stores consumer data, it also accepts a legal obligations to ensure this information remains private. The United States data breach laws allow consumers to pursue civil data breach claims against organizations that fail to protect their information.
Of course, given the recency of the Michigan Medicine data breach, the investigation into the incident is still in its early stages. And, as of right now, there is not yet any evidence suggesting Michigan Medicine is legally responsible for the breach. However, that could change as additional information about the breach and its causes is revealed.
If you have questions about your ability to bring a data breach class action lawsuit against Michigan Medicine, reach out to a data breach attorney as soon as possible.
What Should You Do if You Receive a Michigan Medicine Data Breach Notification?
If Michigan Medicine sends you a data breach notification letter, you are among those whose information was compromised in the recent breach. While this isn’t a time to panic, the situations warrants your attention. Below are a few important steps you can take to protect yourself from identity theft and other fraudulent activity:
Figure Out What Information Was Stolen: Carefully review the data breach letter sent by Mon Health, keeping in mind the information you provided to the company as well as the type of data that was compromised in the breach. You should also take a copy of the data breach letter and keep it for your records. Of course, data breach letters are not always easy to understand. A consumer privacy lawyer can help victims of a data breach understand what was compromised and how to protect themselves.
Prevent the Hacker from Accessing Your Accounts: Once you determine the scope of the breach and how it affected you, you should take all steps to prevent cybercriminals from accessing your credit or financial accounts. For example, you should change all passwords and security questions for your online accounts. You should also consider setting up multi-factor authentication where it is available.
Protect Your Credit and Your Financial Accounts: In the wake of a data breach, companies usually provide free credit monitoring services for a specified period of time. This is not a gimmick, and you do not give up any rights by taking a company up on their offer. Additionally, you should contact one of the three main credit bureaus to request a copy of your credit report. Even if you do not notice any signs of fraud or unauthorized activity, it is a good idea to request a fraud alert. Fraud alerts are free and serve as a red flag to potential lenders and creditors that your information was compromised.
Consider a Credit Freeze: A credit freeze prevents access to your credit report unless you specifically authorize it. Credit freezes are free and last until you remove them. While placing a credit freeze on your accounts may initially seem like a drastic measure, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (“ITRC”), doing so is the “single most effective way to prevent a new credit/financial account from being opened. ” However, ITRC reports that just 3% of consumers whose information is leaked place a freeze on their accounts. Once a credit freeze is in place, you can temporarily lift the freeze if you need to apply for any type of credit.
Regularly Monitor Your Credit Report and Financial Accounts: Protecting yourself in the wake of a data breach is not a one-time task. You should continually monitor your credit report and all financial accounts, keeping an eye out for any signs of unauthorized activity or fraud. You may also consider calling your banks and credit card companies to report the fact that your information was compromised in a data breach.
Below is a copy of the data breach press release posted on the Michigan Medicine website:
Michigan Medicine is notifying approximately 2,920 patients about an employee email account that was compromised which may have exposed some of their health information.
On December 23, 2021, an employee’s Michigan Medicine email account was compromised, resulting in a cyber attacker gaining access to and using the account to send phishing emails. The employee did not know about the compromise until suspicious activity occurred on January 6, 2022. That same day, the employee immediately reported the situation to our Information Technology Department, and the email account was disabled.
No evidence was uncovered during our investigation to suggest that the aim of the attack was to obtain patient health information, but data theft could not be ruled out. As a result, all of the emails involved were presumed compromised. The contents were reviewed to determine if sensitive data about any patients was potentially impacted. This analysis took place between January 31 through February 15, 2022.
Some emails and attachments were found to contain identifiable patient information, such as: names, medical record numbers, addresses, dates of birth, diagnostic and treatment information, and/or health insurance information. The emails were job-related communications for coordination and care of patients, and information related to a specific patient varied, depending on a particular email or attachment. However, no social security numbers, credit card, debit card or other financial account information were discovered.
As soon as Michigan Medicine learned that the email account was compromised, the account was disabled so no further access could take place and immediate password changes were made. Additional technical safeguards on our email system and the infrastructure that supports it were also put in place to prevent similar incidents from happening.
Robust training and education materials are used to increase employee awareness of the risks of cyberattacks, as well as how to identify and report them. We are reviewing these materials to make further improvements.
“Patient privacy is extremely important to us, and we take this matter very seriously. Michigan Medicine took steps to investigate this matter immediately and is implementing additional safeguards to reduce risk to our patients and help prevent recurrence,” said Jeanne Strickland, Michigan Medicine chief compliance officer.
Notices were mailed to the affected patients or their personal representatives starting March 3, 2022. Those concerned about the breach who do not receive a letter may call the toll-free Michigan Medicine Assistance Line: (833) 430-2163. They should refer to Engagement # B028649 when speaking with an agent. Calls will be answered Monday through Friday, 9 am to 11 pm and Saturday – Sunday, 11 am to 8 pm (Eastern Time.)
While Michigan Medicine does not have reason to believe the accounts were compromised for the purpose of obtaining patient information, as a precautionary measure, all affected patients who have been advised to monitor medical statements insurance for any potential evidence of fraudulent transactions. Information about potential identity theft is available from the Federal Trade Commission at www.identitytheft.gov/#/Warning-Signs-of-Identity-Theft(link is external).