UAF Employee Information Stolen


Chris Hoch
Sun Star

Twenty-five thousand past and former employees and their dependents of the UA system have had their information stolen in a cyber attack against Premera Blue Cross. Premera is a nonprofit insurance company that provides health insurance for UAF employee benefits. Premera representatives contacted UAF Human Resources on March 17, after cleansing the attackers from their systems and informed them that attackers may have stolen information related to UAF employees since 2002.

Premera’s systems were penetrated on May 5, 2014 and the breach was discovered eight months later on Jan. 29, 2015. Attackers had access to information including name, address, phone number, date of birth, social security number, e-mail address, Premera member identification number and claims information including clinical information and bank account information. A federal audit conducted in January 2014 indicated 10 potential areas of cyber security improvement for Premera, including failure to install important updates, using non-current software and insecure levels of user privilege.

Premera did not respond to these recommendations until June 20, 2014, two months after the security breach. Pfau Cochran Vertetis Amala PLLC, a Seattle based law firm, has filed a class action lawsuit against Premera. “One of the things we’ll be seeking in the lawsuit is lifetime credit monitoring for all victims of this data breach.” The same day that UAF was informed they coordinated with the HR department, which manages employee benefits, to contact those potentially affected using the Blackboard connect emergency messaging system.

“The university has made no determination regarding legal action towards Premera,” Kathleen Wattum, assistant director/spokesperson for the statewide office of public affairs said. Traditionally, UAF has not commented on its legal actions.

Premera is offering two free years of credit monitoring and identity protection services to anyone whose information may have been stolen. The FBI has become involved in Premera’s investigation regarding the incident, and Premera is strengthening their IT cyber security in response to the event. Premera lists a network of experienced physicians, good customer service and several health plan packages as some of the advantages it provides.

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