The Montana State Health Department Got Hacked and Didn't Realize for 10 Months

The Citizen's Guide to the Future
June 25 2014 4:22 PM

The Montana State Health Department Got Hacked and Didn't Realize for 10 Months

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Government systems need to be secure, but are regularly bombarded by attacks.

Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images

The Montana state health department was hacked last July, but officials only discovered the breach in May. Now 1.3 million people have been notified that their personal data may have been compromised—which is particularly amazing when you realize that the total population of Montana is a little more than 1 million.

According to the Associated Press, the malware-infested servers held names, addresses, birthdates, Social Security numbers, medical records, and insurance information. You know, the good stuff. Montana authorities say that they don't believe the data was stolen or misused, but are trying to be transparent since the situation affects so many people.

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By the way, if you’re wondering why Montana notified 1.3 million people when the population is just over 1 million, you’re not alone. Apparently, the state also contacted people who have moved away, and the relatives of deceased residents.

Montana’s state government servers withstand 17,000 unauthorized access attempts an hour, the AP reports, or about 6 billion a year. Officials say that though it's hard to stay one step ahead, data is generally quite secure, and they have done a security update to keep this particular malware from tricking the system again.

Anyone can call 1-800-809-2956 with questions about the breach, according to the Missoulian. So far callers haven't reported any suspicious behavior in their accounts or using their identity. Would it be too meta to prank call the hack helpline?

Future Tense is a partnership of SlateNew America, and Arizona State University.

Lily Hay Newman is lead blogger for Future Tense.