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Data breach in a New Zealand’s PHO puts medical details of around 1 million people at risk


A data breach in a New Zealand's PHO (Primary Health Organization) may have resulted in exposure of medical data of around 1 million people. These 1 million New Zealanders face the threat of medical data getting illegally accessed after the cyber attack on Tū Ora Compass Health website, said the company on Oct. 5, 2019.


The systems as well as website of Tū Ora Compass Health got hacked in Aug. 2019. However, during the investigation of August breach, Tū Ora realized that their systems got breached several times before this attack. The investigation uncovered past attacks from 2016 to Mar. 2019, said the health firm, who collects and analyses the patient information from the medical centres, in their statement.


As published in Reuters on Oct. 5, 2019, Martin Hefford, Tū Ora's Chief Executive Officer, said in a statement that "while this was illegal and the work of cyber criminals, it was our responsibility to keep people's data safe and we've failed to do that".


New Zealand's Ministry of Health (MoH) said that they were not able to find, whether due to these cyber attacks any information was being accessed. Similarly, Tū Ora's statement also said that they are unsure whether patient data was accessed or compromised by any outside group. One of Tū Ora's statement said that "despite careful investigation, we cannot say for certain whether or not the cyber attacks resulted in any individual patient information being accessed. It is likely we will never know".


Although the Primary Health Organization oversees an area having 648,000 people, the patients having exposed data were in millions as Tū Ora maintains the data since year 2002. Tū Ora said that they hold health data of people from greater Wellington, Manawatu and Wairarapa regions since year 2002.


The information includes the enrolment information at the medical centres, National Health Index Number of patients, name, address, date of birth and ethnicity, said the ministry. In a few cases, Tū Ora holds some additional clinical information that was used for the health promotion like smoking status, and also for managing the chronic conditions like diabetes.


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