Alexander, Murray Urge Anthem to Notify All 78.8 Million Americans Affected in Cyber Attack

Senate health committee Chairman Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) and Ranking Member Patty Murray (D-Wash.) are urging insurer Anthem to notify all 78.8 million Americans whose sensitive personal information may have been exposed in a cyber attack discovered in January.

Lamar Alexander
Lamar Alexander

In a letter to Anthem, the committee leaders note that more than a month and a half after a cyber attack identified on Jan. 29, 2015, “more than 50 million Americans … have yet to receive notice directly from Anthem” that their personal information, including addresses, birth dates, employer information, Social Security numbers and email addresses, may have been compromised, exposing them to resulting security threats like identity theft.”

The senators write, “…[T]he highly sensitive nature of this information makes early notification essential, and we are concerned with your slow pace of notification and outreach thus far.  We are writing to formally request that you speed up the pace of notifications, and share with our committee what steps you plan to take in the next few days, to dramatically increase the pace of notification. This slow pace is of particular concern given that many of the individuals whose information has been compromised are not Anthem customers and may still be unaware that their information was contained in the attacked database.”

They continue, “We formally request that you provide a clear action plan that accelerates the current pace of notification and ensures that all affected families receive notification in the upcoming days.  …This is a critical and pressing issue, and while we understand there are many complications given the size and scope of the attack, we look forward to your response by April 1, 2015 on your progress and a clear target for when you will have reached out to every affected individual.”

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Information Technology Leaders Feel Ill-Equipped to Handle Escalating Cyberattacks

While the frequency and severity of cyberattacks against organizations are on the rise, a majority of information technology (IT) leaders do not feel confident in their leaderships’ ability to leverage intelligence that can predict a cyber vulnerability and effectively combat threats, according to a new survey commissioned by Lockheed Martin.

A majority of survey respondents noted an increase in the severity (75 percent) and frequency (68 percent) of cyberattacks, but feared that they don’t have the budget (64 percent) or the expert personnel (65 percent) to address the threats.

“This survey illuminates areas of concern about cyber readiness across government and critical infrastructure industries,” said Guy Delp, director of cybersecurity and advanced analytics for Lockheed Martin. “The results highlight that the challenges in this domain are universal across both industry and government, and therefore our response needs to be equally holistic. The adoption of Intelligence-Driven Defense techniques is critical to ensuring that not only IT officers, but also chief executives, boards of directors and customers have confidence in the security of their information.”

Other key findings include:

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Securing Healthcare Against Advanced Persistent Threats

Garret Grajek
Garret Grajek

Guest post by Garret Grajek, chief security officer, dincloud.

A March 2014 study by the Ponemon Institute titled, “Ponemon Report on Patient Privacy & Data Security,” stated that cybercriminal attacks on healthcare organizations have doubled in the past three years. If you follow IT news at all, you know that healthcare organizations are also under attack, with some of the latest of these attacks being what experts classify as APTs (Advanced Persistent Threats). APT attacks distinguish themselves by being persistent attacks orchestrated by an organized (and usually well-funded) institution, either government or criminal, with a specific target and purpose for the attack.

APTs distinguish themselves from past “script kiddies” and accidental hackers who execute “crimes of opportunity” (e.g. they find a site that they can do an SQL injection and see what data they can download). Advanced persistent threats however follow the opposite workflow – they select a target and then use any and all mechanisms to obtain access to the data they desire.

You’re in healthcare – but should you care?

Healthcare IT systems are a target rich environment for advanced persistent threats attacks. What’s the reward? PHI (Personal Health Information) and PII (Personal Identification Information).  PHI/PII for hackers is the gift that keeps on giving! With someone’s identity information, hackers can create multiple accounts – financial and other – for the purposes of fraud.  This was seen in mid-August when Community Health Systems announced that it had fell victim to an APT attack earlier that year from an APT group based in China. Chinese hackers stole medical records for 4.5 million patients, according to a regulatory filing from the healthcare provider. And how can we forget the security breach at, the government’s health insurance marketplace.

Healthcare has the same type of information, and more. User identities, associated e-mail addresses, phone numbers, street addresses, and often insurance, credit, and other key PII information (like employer’s and spouse information), are held by health care providers. Attackers know this, and for these reasons, health care entities have become an easy target for advanced persistent threats attacks.

Defending Against APTs

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New Report Identifies Impact of Successful Cyber Attacks Against Healthcare Organizations

IDC Health InsightsIDC Health Insights announces a new report, “Business Strategy: Thwarting Cyber Threats and Attacks against Healthcare Organizations.” that features findings from the 2014 IDC Insights Cross Industry Cyber Threat Survey. The report is designed to gauge how financial services, healthcare provider organizations and retailers are responding to increasing cyber threats and the impact of successful attacks on business operations. The study also highlights how healthcare organizations are investing in their cyber strategy to protect their most valuable electronic assets.

Today’s healthcare organizations are at greater risk of a  cyber attack than ever before in part because electronic health information is more widely available today than in the nearly 20 years since the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act was passed in 1996. Cyber criminals view healthcare organizations as a soft target compared to financial services and retailers because historically healthcare organizations have invested less in IT, including security technologies and services, than other industries, thus making them more vulnerable to successful cyber attacks.

The value of health information, which can be used to commit medical fraud, is surpassing the value of social security and credit card numbers on the black market, thus increasing the attractiveness of stealing health information.

Key findings include:

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