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

Future Tense
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

103728848-hurricane-specialist-robbie-berg-studies-computer
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.

Advertisement

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.

TODAY IN SLATE

Culturebox

The Ebola Story

How our minds build narratives out of disaster.

The Budget Disaster That Completely Sabotaged the WHO’s Response to Ebola

PowerPoint Is the Worst, and Now It’s the Latest Way to Hack Into Your Computer

The Shooting Tragedies That Forged Canada’s Gun Politics

A Highly Unscientific Ranking of Crazy-Old German Beers

Education

Welcome to 13th Grade!

Some high schools are offering a fifth year. That’s a great idea.

Culturebox

The Actual World

“Mount Thoreau” and the naming of things in the wilderness.

Want Kids to Delay Sex? Let Planned Parenthood Teach Them Sex Ed.

Would You Trust Walmart to Provide Your Health Care? (You Should.)

  News & Politics
Politics
Oct. 22 2014 9:42 PM Landslide Landrieu Can the Louisiana Democrat use the powers of incumbency to save herself one more time?
  Business
Continuously Operating
Oct. 22 2014 2:38 PM Crack Open an Old One A highly unscientific evaluation of Germany’s oldest breweries.
  Life
Dear Prudence
Oct. 23 2014 6:00 AM Monster Kids from poorer neighborhoods keep coming to trick-or-treat in mine. Do I have to give them candy?
  Double X
The XX Factor
Oct. 23 2014 8:51 AM The Male-Dominated Culture of Business in Tech Is Not Great for Women
  Slate Plus
Tv Club
Oct. 22 2014 5:27 PM The Slate Walking Dead Podcast A spoiler-filled discussion of Episodes 1 and 2.
  Arts
Brow Beat
Oct. 23 2014 9:00 AM Exclusive Premiere: Key & Peele Imagines the Dark Side of the Make-A-Wish Program
  Technology
Future Tense
Oct. 22 2014 5:33 PM One More Reason Not to Use PowerPoint: It’s The Gateway for a Serious Windows Vulnerability
  Health & Science
Bad Astronomy
Oct. 23 2014 7:30 AM Our Solar System and Galaxy … Seen by an Astronaut
  Sports
Sports Nut
Oct. 20 2014 5:09 PM Keepaway, on Three. Ready—Break! On his record-breaking touchdown pass, Peyton Manning couldn’t even leave the celebration to chance.