Walter Reed patient data exposed

Sensitive data on about 1,000 patients at Walter Reed Army Medical Center and other military hospitals might have been compromised, Walter Reed spokesman Chuck Dasey said.

The names of the patients, who are enrolled in the Military Health System, their Social Security numbers and birth dates were among the personally identifiable information in a computer file that was shared without authorization, officials said June 2.

The disclosure of the information raises the possibility that individuals named in the file could become victims of identity theft, so the hospital will offer them free credit-monitoring services, Dasey said.

Walter Reed officials said they became aware May 21 of the data breach by an outside company, which they did not identify. A preliminary investigation identified the computer from which the data was revealed, Dasey said.

Data security employees at Walter Reed and the Army Department are investigating the source and causes for the security breach, he said.

Hospital officials said they were beginning to contact the individuals listed in the file but added that it did not include protected health information, such as patients’ medical records, diagnoses or prognoses.

“The Walter Reed Army Medical Center has a robust information assurance program that meets all program standards and requirements,” Dasey said.

In 2006, the Office of Management and Budget directed agencies to strengthen data security policies and procedures in the wake of the theft of a Veterans Affairs Department laptop PC that contained sensitive information on millions of veterans. Law enforcement officials recovered the computer, and VA changed its policies and procedures in an effort to improve and enforce data security, first by centralizing its information technology authority under the department’s chief information officer.

OMB’s guidance includes encrypting personally identifiable information stored on mobile devices, reporting potential data breaches immediately and putting notification procedures in place. Agencies are also supposed to ensure that contractors who perform work for them follow the government’s data security policy.

Rep. Ike Skelton (D-Mo.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, said he is awaiting a report on the Army’s investigation into the incident at Walter Reed.

“It’s very troubling when private data is inappropriately released,” Skelton said in a statement. “We must ensure that personal information is protected and prevent any future compromise of patient records.”

About the Author

Mary Mosquera is a reporter for Federal Computer Week.

FCW in Print

In the latest issue: Looking back on three decades of big stories in federal IT.

Featured

  • FCW @ 30 GPS

    FCW @ 30

    Since 1987, FCW has covered it all -- the major contracts, the disruptive technologies, the picayune scandals and the many, many people who make federal IT function. Here's a look back at six of the most significant stories.

  • Shutterstock image.

    A 'minibus' appropriations package could be in the cards

    A short-term funding bill is expected by Sept. 30 to keep the federal government operating through early December, but after that the options get more complicated.

  • Defense Secretary Ash Carter speaks at the TechCrunch Disrupt conference in San Francisco

    DOD launches new tech hub in Austin

    The DOD is opening a new Defense Innovation Unit Experimental office in Austin, Texas, while Congress debates legislation that could defund DIUx.

  • Shutterstock image.

    Merged IT modernization bill punts on funding

    A House panel approved a new IT modernization bill that appears poised to pass, but key funding questions are left for appropriators.

  • General Frost

    Army wants cyber capability everywhere

    The Army's cyber director said cyber, electronic warfare and information operations must be integrated into warfighters' doctrine and training.

  • Rising Star 2013

    Meet the 2016 Rising Stars

    FCW honors 30 early-career leaders in federal IT.

Reader comments

Please post your comments here. Comments are moderated, so they may not appear immediately after submitting. We will not post comments that we consider abusive or off-topic.

Please type the letters/numbers you see above

More from 1105 Public Sector Media Group