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April 25th, 2008

Tapes With Over 2 Million Records Stolen From University of Miami

A private off-site storage company used by the University of Miami has notified the University that a container carrying computer back-up tapes of patient information was stolen.  The tapes were in a transport case that was stolen from a vehicle contracted by the storage company on March 17 in downtown Coral Gables, the company reported.
The victims are more than 2 million medical patients that visited university medical facilities since January 1st, 1999. Types of lost data include names, addresses, Social Security numbers, health information, credit card and other financial information.

Jacqueline Menendez, vice president of communications at the university, said a vehicle used by Archive America Ltd. to transport the patient data was broken into in downtown Coral Gables, Fla., on March 17. The university posted an alert about the incident on April 17, a full month after the backup tapes were stolen. Archive America waited 48 hours before finally notifying the university on Mar. 19 about the break-in and theft.

In a statement, Doctor Pascal J. Goldschmidt, senior vice president for medical affairs and dean of the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, said, “Even though I am confident that our patients’ data is safe, we felt that in the best interest of the physician-patient relationship we should be transparent in this matter.”

Since the incident, Mendendez said that the university temporarily stopped transporting backup data off-site. “At this point, we’re not transporting anything until we conduct our own internal evaluation of the incident and see if there’s anything that could have been done differently or better”.

Coral Gables law enforcement officials, who are investigating the incident, have informed the school that it was likely a “random theft”. Law enforcement is investigating the incident as one of a series of petty thefts in the area.

UM says it will notify 47,000 patients by mail whose records may have included credit card or other financial information.

After learning about the data breach, the university contacted local computer forensics companies to see if data on a similar set of backup tapes could be accessed.

The University has established a call center at 1-866-628-4492 for questions and help.

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