Data breach at Atascadero State Hospital bigger than previously reported, officials say – San Luis Obispo Tribune

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Atascadero State Hospital

Atascadero State Hospital


Dave Middlecamp

A data breach involving Atascadero State Hospital employees and patients was larger than previously reported, the California Department of State Hospitals investigation has revealed.

In a news release Monday, the agency said that additional confidential employee and job applicant data had been improperly accessed by an agency employee during the same data breach at Atascadero State Hospital first identified in February.

At the time, Department of State Hospitals said an employee was found to have improperly accessed approximately 1,415 patient and former patient names, as well as 617 employee names, COVID-19 test results and health information necessary for tracking COVID-19.

The additional data discovered to have been breached by the same employee consists of personal information— including addresses, phone numbers, email addresses, social security numbers, dates of birth and health information — of approximately 1,735 employees and former employees, and 1,217 DSH job applicants who never became DSH employees, the news release Monday says.

The Department of State Hospitals says the agency is continuing its investigation of the breach and has placed the employee responsible on administrative leave pending completion of the investigation.

The California Highway Patrol is assisting state hospitals in its investigation, but the agency says that at this time, there is no evidence that there has been any use or attempted use of the compromised information.

State officials say that, in accordance with federal and state privacy laws, the update to the initial report of a data breach was reported to the U.S. Health and Human Services, Office of Civil Rights, the California Office of Information Security, the CHP, the California Office of Health Information Integrity, the California Department of Public Health and the California Attorney General’s Office.

Employees, former employees, and potential DSH job applicants affected by the breach are also being notified, the release says.

The breach was discovered Feb. 25 as part of an annual review of employee access to data folders, and the employee is believed to have been improperly accessing the information for about 10 months before DSH found out, a frequently asked questions document about the incident said.

“It appears that the employee used the access they were provided in order to perform their normal job duties to go directly into the server, copy files containing patient, former patient, and employee names, COVID-19 test results, and related health information without any apparent connection to their job duties, indicating a high probability of unauthorized access,” the FAQ said.

For more information about the data breach, go to dsh.ca.gov/Breach_Notice.html.


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Matt Fountain is The San Luis Obispo Tribune’s courts and investigations reporter. A San Diego native, Fountain graduated from Cal Poly’s journalism department in 2009 and cut his teeth at the San Luis Obispo New Times before joining The Tribune as a crime and breaking news reporter in 2014.

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