Contact Tracer Breach Hits the Keystone State

Personal health information (PHI) belonging to tens of thousands of Pennsylvanians has been exposed following a data breach at a Department of Health vendor.

Atlanta-based company Insight Global was contracted by the Keystone State's DOH in 2020 "to provide contact tracing and other similar services" following the outbreak of COVID-19. Now the Department is accusing the company of exposing the data of 72,000 individuals by willfully disregarding security protocols.

Pennsylvanians contacted by Insight Global in a contact tracing data collection operation reported to have cost $28.7m shared their information on the understanding that it would be kept confidential. 

Department of Health spokesperson Barry Ciccocioppo stated "certain employees of Insight Global—a vendor contracted by DOH in 2020 to provide contact tracing and other similar services—disregarded security protocols established in the contract and created unauthorized documents outside of the secure data systems created by the Commonwealth. 

"These documents existed separately from the official data that Insight Global employees were collecting and providing to DOH within secure data platforms."

Information exposed in the data breach reportedly included names, phone numbers, and medical information. The DOH said that their data systems were not impacted by the breach. 

“From the briefing I got this morning from the Governor’s Office, there were several employees of Insight Global that ignored or purposefully avoided security protocols, I don’t know whether to make their job easier or what,” said State Representative Jason Ortitay, who serves portions of Washington and Allegheny counties.

He added: “They were basically putting information and people’s names into Google documents and then they were sharing them amongst each other.”

A spokesperson for Insight Global told WXPI that contact tracing information "may have been made accessible to persons beyond authorized employees and public health officials."

The company has launched an investigation into the security incident and taken steps to secure the PHI that was exposed. Free credit monitoring and identity protection services will be offered by the company to individuals affected by the breach. 

Insight Global's contract with the Department of Health expires on July 31. The Department has stated that it will not be renewed.

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