Four and a half million patients treated within the hospital network Community Health Systems now have something else to worry about aside from having to see a physician: identity theft. The 28-state network revealed today that its servers had been breached by Chinese hackers who gained access to CHS patients’ names, birthdates, social security numbers, phone numbers and addresses, every bit of data a criminal would need to perpetrate a robust identity takeover. The hackers did not gain access to credit cards or clinical records, which may only serve as a small consolation to this egregious breach of privacy.
What this means for you:
CHS operates primarily in Alabama, Florida, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Texas, so if you’ve received medical treatment in one of those states any time since records became computerized, you might be affected by this data breach. As opposed to the widely publicized (but not yet independently verified) Russian hacker haul of 1.2 billion passwords, changing a few passwords isn’t going to help you if you are one of the 4.5 million affected by the CHS data leak. Supposedly, CHS is planning to offer some form of Identity Theft monitoring, which, depending on the level of patience and fortitude you have, may be worth accepting. The alternative – manually monitoring your credit for bogus accounts being opened – can be time-consuming and tedious.
Even if you aren’t impacted by the above – are you keeping a close eye on your credit history? Keep in mind that Credit Monitoring services only do just that – monitor. They can’t prevent criminals from attempting to hijack your credit via bogus credit and loan applications. They will warn you about the attempts, and at best, provide some assistance in working with the 4 credit agencies to rectify the damage. And even unsuccessful attempts ding your credit history, adding injury to insult in this case.