Community Health Systems Inc., one of the biggest U.S. hospital groups, said on Monday it was the victim of a cyberattack from China, resulting in the theft of Social Security numbers and other personal data belonging to 4.5 million patients. Security experts said the hacking group, known as "APT 18," may have links to the Chinese government. "APT 18" typically targets companies in the aerospace and defense, construction and engineering, technology, financial services and healthcare industry, said Charles Carmakal, managing director with FireEye Inc.'s Mandiant forensics unit, which led the investigation of the attack on Community Health in April and June. "They have fairly advanced techniques for breaking into organizations as well as maintaining access for fairly long periods of times without getting detected," he said.
The information stolen from Community Health included patient names, addresses, birth dates, telephone numbers and Social Security numbers of people who were referred or received services from doctors affiliated with the hospital group in the last five years, the company said in a regulatory filing. The stolen data did not include medical or clinical information, credit card numbers, or any intellectual property such as data on medical device development, said Community Health, which has 206 hospitals in 29 states.
— Reuters and NBC News staff