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Health News Florida

Data Breach Hits Hospital Chain

Bayfront Health Hospital of Spring Hill
Bayfront Health Hospital of Spring Hill

Community Health Systems, which operates 24 hospitals in Florida, said a cyber attack took information on more than 4 million patients from its computer network earlier this year.

Bayfront Health Hospital of Spring Hill
Credit Bayfront Health
Bayfront Health Hospital of Spring Hill

The Franklin, Tennessee, company said Monday that no medical or credit card records were taken in the attack, which may have happened in April and June. But Community said the attack did bypass its security systems to take patient names, addresses,birth dates, and phone and Social Security numbers.

The hospital operator said it believes the attack came from a group in China that used sophisticated malware and technology to get the information. Community Health has since removed the malware from its system and finalized "other remediation efforts" to prevent future attacks.

A year ago, Community Health purchased dozens of hospitals from the troubled Health Management Associates chain of Naples. The hospitals include the Bayfront Health group in St. Petersburg and smaller community hospitals in West Central and Southwest Florida.  

A spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request from The Associated Press seeking comment on the attacks. The Tampa Bay Times reported that the data breach potentially affected patients at the Bayfront clinics, and not only hospital patients. Patients affected by the breach are being contacted and offered free identity-theft protection, according to the Ocala Star-Banner.

The information that was taken came from patients who were referred to or received care from doctors tied to the company over the past five years.

Community Health Systems Inc. is notifying patients affected by the attack and offering them identity theft protection services. The company owns, leases or operates 206 hospitals in 29 states.

The attack follows other high-profile data security problems that have hit retailers like the e-commerce site eBay and Target Corp. Last year, hackers stole from Target about 40 million debit and credit card numbers and personal information for 70 million people.

Shares of Community Health climbed 38 cents to $51.38 late Monday morning, while broader trading indexes also rose less than 1 percent.

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