Utah Health Department – Yet Another Flashdrive FAIL (YAFF)

Jan 18, 2013   //   by Karen Lopez   //   Blog, Compliance and Regulation, Data, Data Breach, Data Stewardship  //  2 Comments

Red USB Drive

I think we need to have an industry acronym now that this seems to happen every week.  My proposals:

  • Yet Another USB Breach (YAUB)
  • Blame A Thumbdrive (BLAT)
  • Yet Another Flashdrive Fail (YAFF)

I like the YAFF one best, so I’m going with that, even though the #FAIL really isn’t in the hardware, but in the abuse of policy and hardware to cause a data breach.

This week’s YAFF announcement comes again from Utah, where a contractor with access to sensitive health data lost a USB flash drive somewhere between Salt Lake City, Denver, and Washington, DC.

What’s different about this news story is that we get more insight as to why that data was on a portable device.  And it’s just as I prognosticated in a previous post: the contractor was frustrated with an infrastructure issues.

The contractor, Goold Health Systems, handles Medicaid pharmacy transactions for the Health Department.Department spokesman Tom Hudachko said the GHS employee, identified only as a woman from Denver, was having trouble with an Internet connection Thursday while trying to upload the data to a server. The employee saved the personal information to an unencrypted USB memory stick and left the Health Department with the device. The employee lost the stick sometime in the following days while traveling between Salt Lake City, Denver and Washington, D.C.

(emphasis mine)

via Utah health department reports another data breach | NewsOK.com.

The contractor lost her job over this.

People Forget Policy When They Are Frustrated or Stressed

I once found a QA contractor cursing at his computer because he was having trouble sending a large file via his Hotmail account.  I offered to help.  When he showed me what he was doing I just about had a heart attack.  He had been trying to send our offshore contractor a copy of a production database backup.  This backup contained names, addresses, phone numbers, credit card information  (no, the legacy system shouldn’t have been storing this information, but it did), SSNs, Driver’s license numbers and other forms of ID. It was an identity theft treasure chest of awesome.

When I asked him why he was trying email this information to our offshore contractor he said he was frustrated that corporate email system would not let him email such a large file.

He told me the only reason he did this was that he had to get the bug logged and fixed before the weekend because he had plans to be away.  He also forgot that production data was never supposed to leave the building.    I’m not sure he ever really felt that what he was doing was wrong, or had any idea why emailing sensitive data was wrong.

The other shock I got was that it was a production DBA who had given him the backup.  When I asked the DBA why he did this without even asking what it was for, he said "I was really busy and didn’t have time."

I wonder just how many times this scenario plays out every day in offices around the world.

Love your data, even when you are stressed.  Especially when you are stressed.

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