Patient Data Breach at UCLA Hospital System Possibly Impacting 4.5 Million Patients

Posted on July 17, 2015 I Written By

John Lynn is the Founder of the HealthcareScene.com blog network which currently consists of 10 blogs containing over 8000 articles with John having written over 4000 of the articles himself. These EMR and Healthcare IT related articles have been viewed over 16 million times. John also manages Healthcare IT Central and Healthcare IT Today, the leading career Health IT job board and blog. John is co-founder of InfluentialNetworks.com and Physia.com. John is highly involved in social media, and in addition to his blogs can also be found on Twitter: @techguy and @ehrandhit and LinkedIn.

The LA Times is reporting that UCLA Health System has had a data breach possibly affecting 4.5 million patients. It’s the usual story of a HIPAA breach of this size. They saw some abnormal activity on one of their systems that contained a large amount of patient records. They don’t have any evidence that such data was taken, but hackers are usually really good about not leaving a trail when they take records.

Here’s some comments from UCLA Health as quoted in the LA Times article linked above:

“We take this attack on our systems extremely seriously,” said Dr. James Atkinson, interim associate vice chancellor and president of the UCLA Hospital System.

In an interview, Atkinson said the hospital saw unusual activity in one of its computer servers in October. An investigation confirmed in May that the hackers had gained access to patient information.

“They are a highly sophisticated group likely to be offshore,” he said. “We really don’t know. It’s an ongoing investigation.”

I have yet to see a hospital say they don’t take a breach seriously. I’ve also never seen a hospital say that they were hacked by unsophisticated hackers that exploited their poor security (although, you can be sure that happens in every industry). Of course it had to be a sophisticated attack for them to breach their amazing security, right?

What’s not clear to me is why it took them so long to confirm they’d been hacked. The LA Times article says that they saw the unusual activity in October and it took until May to confirm that “the hackers had gained access to patient information.” Now we’re just getting the public notification in July? All of that seems long, but maybe the attack was just that sophisticated.

What’s scary for me is that these types of breaches have become so common place that I’m not surprised and it’s not shocking. In fact, they’ve almost become standard. Next up will be UCLA Health System setting up some type of credit protection service for their patients assuming there was some financial data there as well. I don’t think we should treat these breaches as normal. They should be a wake up call to everyone in the industry, but I’m sorry to say that it feels more like the norm than the exception.