Privacy Advisor

Data Brokers, Universities Breached; Was Nurse Fired for Privacy Breach or Whistleblowing?

September 26, 2013

By Jedidiah Bracy, CIPP/US, CIPP/E

Theft of Data Broker Data

Krebs on Security has reported that an identity theft service known for selling Social Security numbers, birth records, credit and background reports on Americans have breached several data brokers. The alleged site in question, ssndob[dot]ms (SSNDOB) markets itself as an affordable service consumers can use to access and search SSNs and other personal information. According to the report, prices range from $.50 cents to $2.50 per record. After a seven-month investigation by Krebs on Security, SSNDOB appears to have collected such personal information from at least five U.S. based consumer and business-focused data broker networks. Compromised networks allegedly include those run by Lexis Nexis, Dun & Bradstreet and Kroll Background America—now part of HireRight. All affected organizations are working with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to assess the scope of the damage. Lexis Nexis said it has found “no evidence that customer or consumer data were reached or retrieved.” According to the latest update on Krebs on Security, SSNDOB appears to be down.

Universities, Hospital, Investment Firm Breached

Virginia Tech has notified more than 16,000 job applicants their driver’s license numbers may have been accessed by hackers, the Richmond Times-Dispatch reports. The affected individuals had provided the driver’s license numbers in response to a job application question regarding their profession driver’s license status. Approximately 10,000 former patients of Holy Cross Hospital have been notified their personal data may have been accessed by a former employee. Potentially compromised data includes names, dates of birth, addresses and SSNs, according to CBS Miami. Meanwhile, the personal information of 407 medical students of Columbia University Medical Center may have been accidentally released to Columbia University students, staff and faculty via email. The data in question was an Excel file attachment. And Windhaven Investment Management has discovered its web server—which was maintained by a third party—may have been breached.

The Wall Street Journal reports on the quilt-work makeup of international data breach laws around the world. “Laws on sharing and disclosure of data and personal information differ widely among countries, greatly complicating the compliance challenges of companies operating internationally,” the report states.

Whistleblower or Privacy Compromiser?

In a case that could serve as a reminder to organizations of the importance of informing employees of written company policies at the outset of employment, HR and Employment Law News reports on a long-developing case involving a nurse who asserts she was wrongfully fired after filing a whistleblowing complaint. Her former employer, however, claims she violated the privacy of former patients when she used personal health records to help make her case. She notes she redacted personal data on the records. After being terminated in 2009, the nurse sued her former employer.

Read more by Jedidiah Bracy:
White House Names NSA Review Panel
Organization-Wide Privacy Training Implemented at Bloomberg
A Roundup of Obama's Surveillance Changes
Senate Committee Presses NSA; Agencies Willing to Re-evaluate Program