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Planned Parenthood cyber attack exposes data of 400,000 patients

Patients have been advised to check their health insurance statements for fraudulent activity

A view of the outside of a Planned Parenthood facility in Washington, DC

The Los Angeles chapter of nonprofit healthcare provider Planned Parenthood has fallen victim of a cyber attack that has exposed the data of an estimated 400,000 patients.

The incident, which took place in October, saw an unauthorised person gain access to Planned Parenthood LA’s networks and steal files from its systems.

The compromised information includes home addresses, insurance information, dates of birth, as well as information relating to procedures and prescriptions.

A letter detailing the attack was sent out to affected patients on 30 November, a copy of which was obtained by the Washington Post.

Planned Parenthood stated that it has “no evidence” that the stolen data “has been used for fraudulent purposes”.

The organisation has launched an investigation into the incident alongside a “third-party cyber security firm”, as well as notifying law enforcement. It also committed to enhancing its cyber security measures by increasing network monitoring and expanding its own cyber security team. However, it didn’t disclose whether the attackers had requested a ransom, and whether it had been paid.

Patients were advised to review their health insurance statements in case their data was being used to charge for services they weren’t using.

However, the breach could present other threats, especially in the US’ increasingly-polarised political climate regarding reproductive rights. Concerns are mounting that US Supreme Court could overturn the 1973 Roe v Wade and 1992 Planned Parenthood v Casey landmark court case rulings that allows women to have an abortion without excessive government restriction.

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It's feared a breach of this kind could make it possible for anti-abortion protesters, who are known to harrass patients outside Planned Parenthood clinics, to identify those who had undergone the procedure and threaten them.

The breach could also affect patients that are trans and undergoing hormone therapy, which is another Planned Parenthood service that has faced long-standing backlash. Similarly, the data breach could allow for trans patients to be identified and placed in danger.

The incident comes as the latest attack on American healthcare providers, following FBI reports from earlier this year that revealed the Conti ransomware gang had attempted to hack a dozen US healthcare and first responder organisations. Conti was also linked to attacks on Ireland's Health Service Executive (HSE) and its Department of Health (DoH).

Planned Parenthood wasn’t available for comment.

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