Health Insurer Anthem Inc. Latest to Fall Victim to "Sophisticated Cyber Attack"



With up to 80 million customer records exposed, this could be among the largest data breaches in U.S. history - but what really happened to Anthem?

This week Anthem CEO Joseph R. Swedish made public that “Anthem was the target of a very sophisticated external cyber attack. These attackers gained unauthorized access to Anthem’s IT system and have obtained personal information from our current and former members...” He also indicated that the data breach, although significant, did not include any credit card or health data.

Anthem’s customer base is said to be around 80 million across their various offerings. This could potentially be the largest data breach in U.S. history and have a very strong impact on customers’ personal lives. Let’s not forget that SSNs are a magic key for malicious parties to carry out fraud on individuals such as obtaining loans or accessing credit card and health information! Wait, didn’t J. Swedish say that credit cards and health weren’t part of the issue…

Until the exact details of the breach are released (that is, if they do get released), one can only speculate on the “very sophisticated” nature of the attack. I am not sure what a “very sophisticated” attack might entail – perhaps it used highly complex code or some new combined form of malware and RATs.

However, this attack had to have a point of origin. Was it an exploit on key infrastructure, or was it the usual (and more likely) candidate of a user or administrator with weak passwords falling victim to spear-phishing?

Could this have been avoided? In essence, one of the best basic protections against these types of attacks is to ensure some simple security principals: ensure passwords are strong and not shared; implement proper security event detection and responses procedures looking for key anomalies like a non-standard process accessing sensitive data stores; and, most importantly, provide proper user awareness training.

For more on the Anthem data breach story, check out this clip from ABC News featuring Digital Guardian COO Pete Tyrrell:

Thomas Fischer

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Thomas Fischer

Thomas Fischer is global security advocate at Digital Guardian, based out of our EMEA headquarters in London. In addition to his role at Digital Guardian, Thomas is director of the BSides London conference.

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