Government has learned new information about the PharmaNet privacy incidents as a result of the investigative work jointly undertaken by the Vancouver Police Department (VPD) and the ministries of Health, Finance, and Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services.
The breaches are alleged to be a result of cybercrime, which targeted physicians' and medical clinic offices, and PharmaNet service vendors. It is suspected that access was obtained through impersonation of physicians and other methods.
On March 23, 2017, the VPD made an arrest in the case. However, no charges have been laid at this time. The VPD confirmed that the information accessed from PharmaNet, was, in some instances, used for fraudulent purposes. Government continues to work with the VPD to support the investigation. To ensure the integrity of the ongoing investigation, government is unable to share any further details at this time.
The investigation has identified approximately 13,000 new individuals who may have had their PharmaNet profile and/or medication history viewed inappropriately. This is in addition to the approximately 7,500 that were identified earlier this year.
In order to mitigate the risk of fraud and identity theft, government is offering credit monitoring at no cost to all affected individuals. The Ministry of Health is contacting all affected individuals by letter to inform them of the incidents and provide instructions on how to access credit monitoring. Individuals are encouraged to wait for a letter, rather than calling Health Insurance BC. As the investigation is ongoing, additional exposures may become known; in that case, government will complete additional notifications as necessary.
The ministries of Health, Finance, and Technology, Innovation and Citizens’ Services have undertaken a significant amount of work since discovering these incidents. These actions include containing all known PharmaNet incidents, shutting down affected accounts, and disabling accounts that have been inactive for more than 30 days.
The Ministry of Health is implementing more robust security measures with PharmaNet vendors and is installing cautionary banners that stress the legislative requirements for using PharmaNet upon signing in.
A letter was sent to health-care practitioners affected by the breach, advising them of the issue and security measures they can take to prevent unauthorized access. The Office of the Information and Privacy Commissioner has been notified of all incidents and regular updates are being provided to that office.
Protection of government data and networks is a top priority for the B.C. government, especially where it concerns British Columbians’ personal information.
Vancouver Police Department News Release: http://mediareleases.vpd.ca/2017/04/03/man-arrested-for-fraud-following-access-to-medical-billing-information/
A backgrounder follows.