Reward offered for stolen DOD files

The Phoenix contractor for the Defense Department's medical system is offering a $100,000 reward for information that helps lead to the arrest and conviction of perpetrators who stole computers containing thousands of medical records.

TriWest Healthcare Alliance, a records company that is part of DOD's TriCare system, announced that its Phoenix offices had been broken into Dec. 14 and that computers and files were stolen. Contained on those systems are the confidential and personal files of more than 500,000 members, who are active-duty military, retirees or their families. The information stolen includes names, addresses, Social Security numbers and other personal information, such as diagnoses.

Dave McIntyre Jr., president and chief executive of TriWest, said the company is working closely with Arizona law enforcement officials and the FBI in hopes of catching the thief or thieves. The company also has alerted each person who may be affected.

"The identity of those who committed this crime and the motives behind the crime are not known," McIntyre said in a statement issued earlier this week. "While information has been compromised, we do not have any indication that anyone's personal information has been misused or will be misused. The very possibility, however, that it could be misused calls for action on our part to educate our customers with information that will allow them to take steps to protect themselves."

TriWest did not return phone calls. Therefore, company officials would not comment on the types of security or encryption software on the systems to prevent the thief or thieves from accessing the information. Company officials did say, however, that they have taken measures to reconfigure their systems and enhance security on their remaining computers.

"Since learning of the incident on Dec. 20, we have taken a number of actions to assess the situation and to help our beneficiaries," said William Winkenwerder Jr., assistant secretary of defense for health affairs, in a statement. "We sent a health care information technology team to TriWest to review their security procedures and to make suggestions for improvements. A criminal investigation is under way involving the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, FBI and other law enforcement agencies."

The Federal Trade Commission has indicated that the case could turn into one of the largest identity thefts on record if the information contained on the hard drives is misused.

TriWest provides managed health care to about 1.1 million active-duty personnel, their dependents and retirees in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, Nevada, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Utah, Wyoming and western Texas.

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