Premera Blue Cross’s Insurance Hack Causes Ripple Effect in the Security Industry

Article by Becky Errico | 503 words

Health insurance companies are trusted with a lot of information—important information, from personal to medical. But nothing is invulnerable, and that includes the servers of those companies. Sometimes, those servers are hacked. That’s what happened to Premera Blue Cross, which currently serves about 1.8 million people, according to its website.

Premera Blue Cross logo

Credit: PRNewsWire.com

The Premera Blue Cross Medical Data Hack

Earlier this year, the company announced that it had discovered someone hacked its servers back in May of 2014. This was the second health insurance hack announced in 2015, the other targeting Anthem and stealing information on 80 million customers, according to CNN Money. Anthem believes that it was personal data in particular that was stolen.

When the news first came out, Blue Cross reported that 11 million accounts could be at risk in the data hack. CNN Money reported that customers were affected nationwide. It goes on to explain that the number of affected people is so huge because “criminals accessed computers housing data about current and past customers, dating back to 2002.” However, most of the accounts were for customers in Washington and Alaska.

The account information at risk includes Social Security numbers, birthdays, addresses, bank account information, clinical information and detailed insurance claims. Dave Kennedy, chief executive of TrustedSec LLC and a healthcare security expert, told Huffington Post that with all that information, the hackers can “perpetrate really in-depth medical fraud.” That is the biggest worry: fraud.

Since this is happening to multiple health companies, experts believe more of them could be at risk of being targeted. If nothing else, these attacks could get other businesses to look for breaches. “I think other insurance providers are compromised today and we still don’t know it. More and more are going to disclose attacks,” Kennedy said.

Can Premera Rebuild Consumer Trust?

Premera is trying to make amends with its customers. It’s now giving customers two years of credit monitoring and identity theft protection. That is good news for now, but as Modern Health Care reports, these measures are useful only so long as thieves are caught using personal information right away, as opposed to saving it for later. Plus, various experts point out that most credit-monitoring companies don’t protect against medical identity theft, which can be even more problematic than other forms of identity theft. Credit cards can be cancelled, but undoing the effects of health information leaking out is more challenging.

But could all this trouble have all been avoided? An article from Business Insider reports that Premera had been warned of its weaknesses beforehand. Apparently, the US government’s Office of Personnel Management audited the company’s security, prompted by the fact that Premera holds the records of federal workers. The office told Premera that there were numerous servers with “insecure configurations” that could let hackers in.

For now, Premera is focusing on trying to make consumers feel secure again. In a world where cyber security breaches seem to appear on the news more and more often, that may not be an easy task.

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