Community Health Systems, which operates 206 hospitals across the United States including five in the Pee Dee, announced that hackers recently broke into its computers and stole data on 4.5 million patients.
Hackers have gained access to their names, Social Security numbers, physical addresses, birthdays and telephone numbers.
Anyone who received treatment from a physician's office tied to a network-owned hospital in the last five years -- or was merely referred there by an outside doctor -- could be affected.
Carolinas Hospital System in Florence is one of the hospitals affected by the breach.
The hospital's Marketing Director, Kim Harrington, released the following statement on the cyber attack:
"Limited personal identification data belonging to some patients who were seen at physician practices and clinics affiliated with Carolinas Hospital System -Marion over the past five years was transferred out of our organization in a criminal cyber-attack by a foreign-based intruder. The transferred information did not include any medical information or credit card information, but it did include names, addresses, birth dates, telephone numbers and social security numbers.
We take very seriously the security and confidentiality of private patient information and we sincerely regret any concern or inconvenience to patients. Though we have no reason to believe that this data would ever be used, all affected patients are being notified by letter and offered free identity theft protection.
Our organization believes the intruder was a foreign-based group out of China that was likely looking for intellectual property. The intruder used highly sophisticated methods to bypass security systems. The intruder has been eradicated and applications have been deployed to protect against future attacks. We are working with federal law enforcement authorities in their investigation and will support prosecution of those responsible for this attack.
Many American companies and organizations have been victimized by foreign-based cyber intrusions. It is up to the Federal Government to create a national cyber defense that can prevent this type of criminal invasion from happening in the future."
To see the local hospitals in this network, click here.