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Thursday, November 03, 2022

HOME HEALTH CARE COMPANY TO PAY $425,000 FOLLOWING DATA BREACH IMPACTING THOUSANDS OF MASSACHUSETTS RESIDENTS

 HOME HEALTH CARE COMPANY TO PAY $425,000 FOLLOWING DATA BREACH IMPACTING THOUSANDS OF MASSACHUSETTS RESIDENTS

Georgia-Based Company Failed to Implement Proper Security Measures Necessary to Prevent Series of Phishing Attacks that Affected More than 4,000 Massachusetts Residents in 2019

 

            BOSTON – A Georgia-based home health and hospice care company will pay $425,000 after it failed to implement proper security measures to protect the personal information of patients and employees, Attorney General Maura Healey announced today.

 

The complaint and consent judgment against Aveanna Healthcare, LLC, entered today in Suffolk Superior Court, follows a series of phishing attacks that impacted more than 4,000 Massachusetts residents. Aveanna is a national provider of pediatric and adult home health care, operating in 33 states with Massachusetts offices located in Brockton, Plymouth, Shrewsbury, Springfield, Waltham, West Springfield, and Worcester. The AG’s Office alleges that in July 2019, Aveanna employees began receiving fraudulent “phishing” emails designed to cause the recipient to provide credentials, money, or sensitive information.

 

“Companies have an obligation to put the right security measures and systems in place to prevent hackers from accessing sensitive information,” said AG Healey. “As a result of this resolution, Aveanna will ensure compliance with our strong data security laws and the take steps necessary to protect its employees and the private data of Massachusetts residents moving forward.”

 

The private information, which may have included social security numbers, driver’s license numbers, financial account numbers, and health information such as diagnoses, medications, and treatment records, of more than 4,000 Massachusetts residents, including patients and employees, was potentially accessed by the hackers.

 

In one instance, a phishing email was sent to employees that appeared to come from Aveanna’s president. The attacks continued into August 2019, by which point more than 600 phishing emails were sent to employees. Employees’ responses to these emails resulted in hackers obtaining access to portions of Aveanna’s computer network. The hackers also tried to defraud employees by logging into Aveanna’s human resources system and altering individual employees’ direct deposit information. In response to the incident, Aveanna provided affected Massachusetts residents with two years of free credit monitoring.

 

            The AG’s Office alleges that Aveanna was aware that its cybersecurity required improvement but had not implemented new changes to improve it by the time the phishing attacks occurred. Among the problems Aveanna identified were a lack of sufficient tools and employee training to stop phishing attacks, and a lack of the use of multi-factor authentication, which can also help to stop phishing attacks. Additionally, the AG’s Office alleges that Aveanna’s security program failed to meet the minimum required safeguards to protect personal information under the Massachusetts Data Security Regulations. The complaint also alleges that Aveanna failed to meet the standards for security of protected health information that are required by Federal HIPAA regulations.

 

            Under the terms of the consent judgment, Aveanna will pay $425,000 to the AG’s Office. Additionally, the company will be required to develop, implement, and maintain a security program that includes phishing protection technology, multi-factor authentication, and other systems designed to detect and address intrusions. 

 

Aveanna must also continue to train its employees on data security, keep them up to date on security threats, and do an annual independent assessment of its compliance with the consent judgment and the Massachusetts Data Security Regulations for a period of four years.

 

            If you believe that you have been the victim of a data breach, you may need to take steps to protect yourself from identity theft. For additional information, consumers may visit the AG’s website. Guidance for businesses on data breaches can be found here.

 

This case was handled by Division Chief Jared Rinehimer, of the AG’s Data Privacy and Security Division.

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