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April 30th, 2008

University Of Massachusetts Amherst’s Health Services Network Breached By Hackers

On April 11th hackers breached the computer system used by University of Massachusetts Amherst’s Health Services, potentially gaining access to thousands of medical records. After an initial investigation of the remote intrusion, the University decided to shut down the network. Though many of the most personal medical records are kept on paper files, officials say some personal information is available on the 150 computers used by the department.

More than half of the student population at UMass Amherst are patients on record at the University Health Services. According to the UMass Amherst web site, the school had an enrollment of 25,593 total undergraduate and graduate students in the fall of 2006. The supposed breach might affect these people.

A fact that’s even more unsettling for patients who were unaware of the breach more than a week after it occurred. The University did post a notice on the Health Services website, and they are notifying patients when they enter the clinic.

The University has launched a detailed evaluation of the incident to find out if any of the files were accessed during the intrusion, and will keep the community advised of its findings. Campus officials say it will be weeks before they are completely sure what information, if any, was taken off the computers. Officials believe outside hackers wanted to use the server as a host for illegal music and video downloads, one that would make the culprits untraceable.

The workstations in question contained limited patient information. To date, about 30 workstations have been returned to service and officials project that the entire network will be operating within the next week. According to campus officials, the entire campus system is being looked at to avoid future breaches.

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