Alaska Offers Free Credit Monitoring After Security Breach
Starting from September 27, Alaska will be offering free credit monitoring services following a cyberattack on the Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS). The attack has compromised residents’ protected personal information, and they have since been advised to use credit monitoring services to keep an eye on any potential irregularities. The investigation into the attack is ongoing, so the details have yet to be made public.
During the press conference held on September 16, Adam Crum, a DHSS commissioner, refused to disclose both the attacker’s identity and the nature of the compromised information. However, the FAQ provided by the DHSS refers to the attackers as “nation-state sponsored.” The breach was announced in May this year, during a DHSS system shutdown.
However, the DHSS shared that the accessed data was protected under the federal Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act and Alaska Personal Information Protection Act. These ensure that Alaskans are notified that their information might be compromised.
Crum then announced that the DHSS would send emails with instructions for applying for free credit monitoring by the end of September. It will send these emails to all Alaskans who have submitted Alaska Permanent Fund dividend applications.
The department also announced that it would set up a toll-free number on September 27 to help Alaskans with the applications. Support will be available between 5 a.m. and 5 p.m.
“It is a fair statement to say that any Alaskan could have been compromised by this,” Crum said.
The DHSS said that it hired cybersecurity companies FireEye and Mandiant to deal with the breach. FireEye said the attacker was “a highly sophisticated group known to conduct complex cyberattacks against organizations that include state governments and health care entities.”
Crum said the cybersecurity experts concluded that the culprit was now cut off from the DHSS’s systems and that the attack was over. However, the department’s staff now faces many new tasks: As DHSS databases had to be shut down, its employees had to input the information manually.
This has also led to a significant backlog of requests for essential documents such as birth and marriage certificates.
This was not the first breach Alaska had to deal with recently, either. The same month the DHSS breach happened, the Alaskan Court System was also a victim of a cybersecurity attack. On top of that, last December, Alaska’s Division of Elections announced that another breach potentially exposed data belonging to 113,000 Alaskan voters.
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