Stolen Laptop: Breach Affects 34,000

Howard University Hospital Notifies Patients
Stolen Laptop: Breach Affects 34,000

Howard University Hospital in Washington, D.C., is notifying more than 34,000 patients about a data breach involving the theft of a former contractor's unencrypted personal laptop computer from a vehicle.

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The former contractor, who the hospital is not naming, downloaded the patient files to the laptop in violation of the hospital's policies and HIPAA guidelines, the hospital acknowledges in a statement on its website. The contractor, who ceased working for the hospital last December, reported the theft to police on Jan. 25.

The laptop included Social Security numbers of some of the patients; those patients are being offered one year's worth of free credit monitoring and identity theft alert coverage. Other data on the laptop includes names, addresses, identification numbers, medical records numbers, birth dates, admission dates, diagnosis-related information and discharge dates.

So far, there's no evidence that any of the patient files have been accessed, the hospital reports. In the wake of the incident, the hospital has strengthened its contractor policies to make clear that data and laptop encryption are required. Plus, the hospital has announced it is encrypting all laptops issued to staff members.

The hospital has posted a frequently asked questions guide on its website.

About the Author

Howard Anderson

Howard Anderson

Former News Editor, ISMG

Anderson was news editor of Information Security Media Group and founding editor of HealthcareInfoSecurity and DataBreachToday. He has more than 40 years of journalism experience, with a focus on healthcare information technology issues. Before launching HealthcareInfoSecurity, he served as founding editor of Health Data Management magazine, where he worked for 17 years, and he served in leadership roles at several other healthcare magazines and newspapers.

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