Data of about 26,000 patients may have been copied from Toronto hospital group

Personal information of some 26,000 patients at one of the country’s biggest hospital groups may have been copied by an attacker in June.

Toronto’s University Health Network (UHN), a group that includes three downtown hospitals, notified an unknown number of people earlier this month that a database that tracks electronic referrals to Toronto Western Hospital’s orthopedic clinic was exposed. Orthopedics involves bones, joints, ligaments, tendons, muscles, and nerves.

The database included the names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, sex, medical assessments and patients’ provincial health insurance numbers.

All that information is ideal for cyber crooks to use to create phony identification.

Asked by email for comment about the letter on Sunday, Kyla Kumar, UNH’s vice president of communications and brand didn’t answer questions on exactly how the breach of security controls happened. She did say in a statement that UNH detected “unusual firewall activity” on June 19.

“Security safeguards can be bypassed by sophisticated threat actors who are continually evolving the technologies and tactics they use,” she said. “UHN Digital is vigilant in monitoring firewall activity and has an extremely strong track record for maintaining digital security. When unusual firewall activity was detected on June 19, the digital security team took swift action to contain and remove the threat actor from two applications.

“At this time there is no evidence that unauthorized users were able to access or otherwise retain any information from UHN systems.”

Ontario’s Information and Privacy Commissioner has been notified, Kumar said, as have Toronto Police Service and the RCMP.

“The protection and safeguarding of personal information at UHN is a responsibility we take seriously,” Kumar said. “We deeply regret this incident and are committed to ensuring that those who have been affected have the support they need.”

University Health Network includes Toronto Western Hospital, Toronto General Hospital, Princess Margaret Cancer Centre, Toronto Rehabilitation Institute and the Michener Institute of Education. The bulk of its funding comes from the province of Ontario.

The UHN facilities collectively have a total of 905 hospital beds, 415 rehabilitation beds and 203 beds for reactivation patients.

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Howard Solomon
Howard Solomon
Currently a freelance writer, I'm the former editor of and Computing Canada. An IT journalist since 1997, I've written for several of ITWC's sister publications including and Computer Dealer News. Before that I was a staff reporter at the Calgary Herald and the Brampton (Ont.) Daily Times. I can be reached at hsolomon [@]

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