DeTar patients affected by security breach

Jessica Priest By Jessica Priest

Aug. 18, 2014 at 6 p.m.
Updated Aug. 18, 2014 at 11:06 p.m.

Donna Guerra Escalante was born at DeTar Hospital Navarro.

And her visits to its doctors increased after her Kia Soul collided with a tractor-trailer in September 2012, breaking her back, ribs, hip and hand as well as collapsing her lung.

She was surprised to learn Monday afternoon that her personal information may be in the hands of Chinese hackers.

"That's kind of scary. I just don't understand why nobody has contacted us," she said.

Those who have seen a doctor associated with DeTar Healthcare System within the last five years could be among 4.5 million people whose information was stolen in April and June.

The information that was stolen includes patients' names, addresses, telephone numbers, birth dates and Social Security numbers.

The hackers did not steal credit card, medical or clinical information, according to a report issued by Community Health Systems, a Tennessee-based company that keeps patient information for DeTar Healthcare System and 205 other hospitals in 29 states.

"We take very seriously the security and confidentiality of private patient information, and we sincerely regret any concern or inconvenience to patients," Judith Barefield, DeTar Hospital director of marketing, said via email. "Though we have no reason to believe that this data would ever be used, all affected patients are being notified by letter and offered free identity theft protection."

She would not say when patients could expect a letter in the mail or how long the free identity theft protection would last because of the ongoing criminal investigation.

Both Barefield and Tomi Galin, a spokeswoman for Community Health Systems, did not answer questions regarding how many people in the Crossroads were affected by the hackers.

When Guerra Escalante, 49, of Victoria, learned of the security breach, she immediately called State Farm to get more information about identity theft protection.

State Farm checks for suspicious activity in their clients' names every three months for a $100 fee, she said.

"It's going to cost me, but I guess I'm going to be better off paying for it than going through something like this," she said, adding she hopes DeTar offers to foot the bill.

Although she isn't hesitant to seek further treatment at DeTar, she will not be providing her Social Security number again.

"The other thing is my insurance will only allow me to go there," said Guerra Escalante, who is now disabled.

Community Health Systems wrote in a report that it thinks the Chinese hackers used malware and other sophisticated technology to bypass its security systems. It also thinks they were after valuable intellectual property, such as medical device and equipment development data.

It has since eradicated the malware and implemented other security measures, although it did not elaborate as to what those measures are.

The Federal Trade Commission reported there were 290,056 identity theft complaints filed in 2013.

About 1.3 percent of the identity theft complaints originated because of a data breach.

Texas also ranked that year as eighth in the nation for the most identity theft complaints, or 88 complaints per 100,000 population, according to the report.

Tracy Bracy, the regional director of the Better Business Bureau, wrote via email that it's easier to hack into a company database than it is to go door-to-door.

"We are seeing security compromises like this happen almost on a weekly basis. There are many compromises we don't even hear about," she wrote. "If you are worried your information may be compromised, put an alert on your credit reports with the three major credit reporting agencies."



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