Oregon Department of Human Services Breach Affects 645,000 Clients

Oregon Department of Human Services Breach Affects 645,000 Clients

In March, the department announced that 350,000 clients had been affected by a data breach in January 2019. On Tuesday, they updated the number and announced that 645,000 clients had been affected.

The personal data of more than 650,000 clients of Oregon’s Department of Human Services was compromised during a January data breach. The department announced in March that more than 350,000 clients had been impacted, but they were doing an investigation and had not finished yet. When the department completed the investigation this week, they concluded that the number of clients affected was much higher than the original figure released.

The compromised information could include first and last names, addresses, dates of birth, Social Security numbers, case numbers, personal health information, and other information used in DHS programs. Not all of these information types were exposed for each client, and it is unknown if the information was viewed or used inappropriately.

On Jan. 8, an email phishing attempt was sent to department employees, and nine employees opened and clicked on the phishing link, allowing the sender access to their accounts. The accounts were secured by Jan. 28. Following the breach, the department hired ID Experts, an outside firm, to investigate the emails affected by the scam. The team comprised 70 attorneys and paralegals who read through and sorted the 2 million susceptible emails.

Most of the personal information compromised was in email attachments. Pravin Kothari, founder and CEO of CipherCloud, said it’s surprising that the department did not have adequate protection against these types of attacks.

“What’s surprising is that the email attachments with sensitive PII and PHI data did not have any protection, and that Oregon DHS was just not prepared for such common attacks,” Kothari said. “Most organizations have their email systems migrated to the cloud, either Microsoft or Google. As more and more information and data, the “crown jewels” of any organization, migrate to cloud-based solutions, organizations just do not have visibility and control that they used to have within the enterprise perimeter.”

Jake Sunderland, the agency’s spokesperson, told The Oregonian the breach affected clients from all five of the department’s divisions: Aging and People with Disabilities, Developmental Disabilities, Child Welfare, Self-sufficiency and Vocational Rehab.

The department is providing 12 months of identity theft monitoring and recovery services, including a $1 million insurance reimbursement policy, to affected clients. The service is provided by ID Experts and is called MyIDCare.

Colin Bastable, the CEO of Lucy Security, said the fact the department was using email as a data storage solution stood out to him. He said there are technology, processes, and policies to ensure that breaches of this kind don’t happen.

“The offer of credit monitoring services is a box-tick, business-as-usual offer: but the adverse impacts of phishing attacks last much longer and reverberate much wider,” Bastable said. “Harvested data is sold, repackaged and resold multiple times on the Dark Web – the 645,000 Oregonians and their families and friends will be compromised and inconvenienced in some manner for years to come.”

The department will begin to send notifications with MyIDCare enrollment instructions Wednesday, June 19.

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