Interior of the Big Bend Regional Medical Center in Alpine (Courtesy Big Bend Film Commission)
On August 18, Community Health Systems, operator of 206 hospitals around the country, including Big Bend Regional Medical Center, Scenic Mountain Medical Center in Big Spring, and San Angelo Community Medical Center, filed an FCC report that revealed private patient information had been hacked from their computer system.
“Our computer network was the target of a very sophisticated criminal cyber attack,” says Mary Clare Spear, marketing director for Big Bend Regional Medical Center. “They were looking for things such as medical device or equipment data.”
The hackers did not find the intellectual property they were looking for, instead they took patient names, addresses, birth dates, telephone numbers, and social security numbers, all protected by the HIPPA privacy act.
Spear also said Community Health Systems does not currently know how many patients are effected locally, though they do know the information was taken from the hospital’s affiliated clinics and physician’s offices and not the hospital itself. Overall, the hospital system believes 4.5 million patients’ information was stolen from the last five years.
“Those who are effected will be receiving notification in the mail and also be getting free identity theft protection,” says Spear.
The hackers are believed to be from China. The attack happened in April and June of 2014. Community Health Systems confirmed the theft internally in July and filed the FCC report August 18.
Unfortunately, patients effected by this cyber crime will have to wait for news the old fashioned way: by their mailboxes. Spear says those letters with the bad news will go out at the end of August.