April 21, 2024

Mental health consortium data may have been compromised in ransomware attack

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Reed Anfinson

In mid-August, Grant County discovered its computers had been hacked and that the hackers were demanding compensation.

Now the Region 4 South Mental Health Consortium has sent out letters to its clients notifying them that their personal data and history with the consortium may have been compromised.

In response to questions from the Grant County Herald on the status of the investigation into the ransomware attack, the county responded that it was continuing to carry out a “comprehensive evaluation of the data impacted by this incident to determine whether it has a legal obligation to provide a notice of a data breach.  

“If the county determines that it has a legal obligation to provide notification, it will do so in compliance with any applicable laws,” it said. Minnesota and federal laws come into play requiring notification to those whose data might have been compromised by the ransomware attack.

The Herald asked the county whether there had been a demand for compensation from the hackers.

“Yes, the cyber criminals demanded payment,” the county stated in an email to the Herald.  “The county refused to pay them. Our external IT providers were able to restore much of our data from our existing backups without paying the ransom to the cybercriminals and we are fully operational.”

Often when there is a ransomware attack, the criminals will demand compensation to unfreeze computers, restoring use access. However, they also can ask for compensation in exchange for not dumping private data they may have accessed on the internet for anyone to see.

No further information was given by the county on the ransomware attack with it saying the incident was still under investigation.

The Grant County Herald has also learned that there was an inadvertent release of access to a wide range of public data. A special closed emergency meeting was conducted by the county board June 23 to apparently address the situation.

Whether or not the county has notified those who data could have been accessed through the inadvertent provision of access to county data is not know at this time. 

County officials have said that this inadvertent release of information and the ransomware attack are two different incidents.

“This incident involves a ransomware attack from a cyber-criminal,” a statement from its breach counsel the Herald was told. “Grant County continues to coordinate with federal law enforcement and state entities to investigate the respond to this incident.”

“This incident does not involve inadvertent release by the county of access to its computers. This incident involves a ransomware attack,” the breach counsel said in response to questions submitted by the Herald.

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