NC residents likely affected by Anthem insurance data breach
Posted February 6, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — A "very sophisticated" cyberattack on the nation's second largest U.S. health insurers likely means some consumers in North Carolina have had their personal information compromised, the state's top prosecutor said Friday.
"We don’t know how many, but we believe there are North Carolina customers who could be affected," Attorney General Roy Cooper said of the data breach involving Blue Cross Blue Shield insurer Anthem.
The company reported Thursday that hackers have accessed some customers' medical information, including birthdays, Social Security numbers and income data – all information that Cooper says could lead to identity theft.
Computer security experts say the Anthem breach is different than other breaches, such as the one that affected thousands of Target customers last year.
That case and several others revolved around retail information.
"With credit cards, you have an idea that someone is going to use that credit card and try to buy something with it," Emerson Murphy-Hill, a computer science professor at North Carolina State University, said. "With medical information, it's a little different. One thing they can do is pretend to be you and get free health care."
Researchers estimate that more than 2 million Americans are victims of medical identity theft. A study set to be released this month says the number of cases grew by nearly 22 percent last year.
"This is a crime that is very hard to track down, and it's a hard crime to know if you are a victim. That's why it's on the rise," said Pam Dixon, executive director of The World Privacy Forum.
Cooper advises customers to monitor their credit reports and bank statements for unusual activity.
Another piece of advice: place a security freeze on your credit to keep anyone from opening a new account without special approval.
"It is a little more complicated for a consumer to do, but we believe that is the very best way to protect yourself," Cooper said.
Since 2005, about 6.2 million North Carolina residents have been effected by data breaches, Cooper says, and he expects that number to keep rising.
"Criminals are going to continue to use technology to try to rob us of our money and, sometimes, of our good name," he said. "So, we are going to have to stay vigilant.
In a statement released Friday, Blue Cross Blue Shield said they are aware of the data breach and are in close communication with Anthem.