Protected health information of nearly 9K compromised in Department of Health data breach

Rhode Island Department of Health. (WLNE)

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) — The Rhode Island Department of Health said Wednesday that protected health information of nearly 9,000 people was compromised in a recent data breach.

The Department of Health said a link to a spreadsheet was accidentally included in emails sent by a staff member between July 28 and Oct. 30.

“The file contained information about people receiving food box deliveries while in COVID-19 isolation or quarantine,” said Annemarie Beardsworth, a spokesperson for the Department of Health.

Beardsworth said the file contained information for about 8,880 people.

“The people listed in this spreadsheet are being notified directly of this breach through postal mail,” she said.

Beardsworth said the nearly 9,000 people affected by this breach will receive a letter from the Department of Health by Dec. 20.

“To RIDOH’s knowledge, this file was inadvertently emailed to 46 people, all of whom were on the list to receive food box services,” she explained in a release Wednesday.

According to Beardsworth, the Department of Health is not aware of any security concerns connected to this breach.

“No medical information or financial information was included in the breach,” she said.

Beardsworth said the spreadsheet contained various information, including names, addresses, personal specific needs, household information, and date of contact by the Department of Health.

“RIDOH began investigating this breach as soon as it was discovered,” said Beardsworth.

The investigation included:

  • Immediately conducting extensive email searches to determine how widely the link to the file had been shared
  • Immediately restricting access to the file
  • Identifying additional steps to prevent unintended release of information in the future, including additional trainings for staff and enhanced security measures for the handling of sensitive information.

The Department of Health said anyone who wants to see if their information was compromised during this breach should contact their support team on or after Dec. 12 at 844-930-1780.

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