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Tampa General Hospital reports data breach affecting 1.2 million

Tampa General Hospital reports data breach affecting 1.2 million

Tampa General Hospital in Florida has released official information regarding a recent data breach.


What happened

In a brief notice posted online, Tampa General Hospital (TGH) noted they experienced a cybersecurity event that affected approximately 1.2 million people. 

According to the hospital's investigation, the breach occurred between May 12th and May 30th but went unnoticed until May 31st, when the IT department detected unusual activity. 

TGH believes that vulnerable information included names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, health insurance information, medical record information, patient account numbers, dates of service, and some limited treatment information. However, the hospital's electronic medical record system was not part of the data breach. 

The hospital has published the notice online and will be sending letters to individuals who may have been affected. They are providing free credit monitoring and identity theft protection to those whose Social Security numbers may have been exposed. 


Why it matters

TGH has reported that the FBI is providing support to the agency and investigating the crime. According to TGH, the attackers intended to encrypt the data, a tactic used to force organizations to pay a ransom to retrieve their data. The security systems utilized by TGH thwarted the would-be ransomware attack. 

Ransomware attacks are becoming increasingly prevalent and expensive for hospitals to recover from. In the case of TGH, they successfully hardened their security systems and prevented an attack from potentially escalating. 


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What they're saying

TGH's release stated, "the hospital is continuously updating and hardening systems to help prevent events such as this from occurring and has implemented additional defensive tools and increased monitoring." 

In a news report on the incident, cybersecurity expert Dr. Thomas Hyslip commended TGH's ability to prevent the attack. He explained the attacker's method as "standard now… They steal the files, they encrypt everything, and then they blackmail you." TGH's security systems meant their files were never stolen, and apart from data potentially being leaked, operations were able to continue as normal. 

A spokesperson for TGH said they were grateful their security system prevented escalation, stating that an encryption would have "significantly interrupted the hospital's ability to provide care for patients." 


The bottom line

With attacks, especially ransomware incidents, occurring with increased frequency and severity, it can be difficult for organizations to face them head-on. But even as the tactics of the nefarious groups evolve, many still rely on encryption. 

Hardening infrastructure can be more costly and time-consuming up front. Still, for hospitals like Tampa General, in the long run, it's saved them significant money and maybe even lives. 

Related: HIPAA Compliant Email: The Definitive Guide

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