The Social Security numbers, names and addresses of some Tucson-area patients were stolen in a massive cyberattack over the past five years, officials with Northwest Healthcare confirmed Tuesday.
The criminal attack by a foreign intruder compromised records belonging to patients of the Tennessee-based company Community Health Systems, which includes two Tucson hospitals: Northwest Medical Center and Oro Valley Hospital. Nationwide, about 4.5 million patients were affected.
Northwest Medical Center spokeswoman Kimberly Chimene says the local patients affected will be notified by mail, though she was unable to say how many were affected here. The patients were seen through Northwest Allied Physicians, a physician practice affiliated with Northwest Healthcare.
Northwest Healthcare includes two hospitals, urgent care clinics and Northwest Allied Physician clinics. Patients at any of the clinics or who were under the care of a hospitalist at one of the hospitals may have had their data stolen. Chimene says that it wasn’t all patients during thattime frame, just some.
The stolen information did not include any medical or credit card information, but it did include names, addresses, birthdates, telephone numbers and Social Security numbers, officials said.
“We take very seriously the security and confidentiality of private patient information, and we sincerely regret any concern or inconvenience to patients,” Northwest said in a news release.
“Though we have no reason to believe that this data would ever be used, all affected patients are being notified by letter and offered free identity theft protection.”
Chimene says Northwest Healthcare officials believe the intruder was a foreign-based group out of China that was likely looking for intellectual property. The intrusion has been eradicated and applications have been deployed to protect against future attacks, she said.
If patients want to speak with someone locally, they may call 469-8339.
In a notice on its website, Community Health Systems says it is working closely with federal law enforcement authorities. The company says the majority of patients served by its clinics and affiliated hospital-based physicians were not affected by the breach.
Community Health Systems says questions may be directed to 1-855-205-6951 toll-free beginning today.
For information on preventing identity theft or to report suspicious activity, the company advises contacting the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-438-4338 or get information at www.ftc.gov