A China-based cyber attack that stole an estimated 4.5 million medical records from hospitals across the nation has also impacted a series of local medical clinics and physicians, but the extent of that impact is unclear.
Hospitals and medical centers associated with Community Health Systems, which operates 206 hospitals nation wide, including Mountain Medical Center, reported Monday morning that hackers had accessed the secure records of some 4.5 million patients.
The hackers stole names, addresses, phone numbers, birthdates, and social security numbers.
Community Health Systems discovered the breach over the weekend, but it appears as though the China-based hackers accessed the files sometime between April and June of this year, said Becky Trigg, director of marketing at Mountain West.
Trigg said so far the evidence indicates the hackers used highly sophisticated malware programs to access the medical provider’s patient files.
Hospital patients at Mountain West Medical Center were unaffected, but hackers stole information from local clinics and physicians affiliated with the Tooele hospital, Trigg said.
As of press time, it was still unknown exactly which clinics were hit or how many local patients have been affected by the hack, she said. Mountain West plans to begin sending letters to notify specific local victims tomorrow morning. Those letters should begin to arrive by the end of the week.
Until then, Community Health Systems has set up a hotline for patients with concerns or questions. Locals who believe their medical records may have been compromised may call 1-855-205-6951 after 8 a.m. Wednesday for more information.
Additionally, Trigg said Mountain West intends to offer an identity theft protection and insurance program to affected patients.
Federal law enforcement officers, as well as a private cyber security company, are currently conducting an investigation. If possible, federal law enforcement intends to arrest and prosecute the hackers.
“This does happen. It’s never happened to us before, but it’s happened with Target and the University of Utah and some financial institutions,” Trigg said. “We take this very seriously and we want people to feel safe.”
She said Mountain West will get additional information to residents and any affected parties as soon as that information becomes available.