Cyberattack led to IT outage at 8 Texas cancer clinics: 36,000 exposed

Austin (Texas) Cancer Centers began notifying 36,503 patients of a data breach that forced it to shut down its IT networks, according to data shared with the Maine attorney general's office.

Six things to know:

  1. The cancer treatment network, which has eight locations, discovered Aug. 4 that hackers had deployed malware onto its systems, according to an Aug. 27 news release. The chain of cancer centers immediately shut down its IT network and law enforcement was contacted. 

  2. Cybersecurity experts determined that hackers were able to stay invisible on the system since July 21. Austin Cancer Centers said that for security reasons, it took 14 days to identify, uncover and release the information. It also required its IT network to remain offline. The cancer treatment network notified Maine's attorney general's office Sept. 15, as required by Maine's data breach laws that mandate reporting if at least one Maine resident was affected.

  3. The organization had to work manually to minimize patient disruption while its networks were offline.

  4. Austin Cancer Centers said it is unable to confirm if the attack was related to ransomware. The cancer center said it will release more information at a later time.

  5. Exposed information may include Social Security numbers, names, addresses, birthdates, credit card numbers and health-related information. Its experts worked daily to fully restore its IT systems and restore operations, according to an Aug. 27 data breach notification letter.

  6. To prevent a similar situation from happening in the future, all employees with the Austin Cancer Centers have undergone retraining related to this incident. For patients affected, Austin Cancer Centers offers online credit monitoring services and fraud insurance with coverage up to $1,000,000.

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