Clinics in Colonial Heights and Petersburg part of data breach

PETERSBURG, VA (WWBT) - Patients in Petersburg and Colonial Heights are among the 4.5 million medical patients whose personal information was exposed to cyber thieves in a massive national security breach.

Southside Regional Medical Center in Petersburg, Southern Virginia Regional Medical Center in Emporia, and Southampton Memorial Hospital in Franklin are three of 206 hospitals operated by Community Health Systems, which announced Monday it was recently hacked into.

Community Health Services officials say the breach does not affect patients at the hospital, rather it affects patients seen in past five years at the private practices of their affiliated physicians, of which they only have seven affiliated practices.

The hackers sophisticated techniques to launch attacks on Community Health Systems' site, likely in April and June. The FBI told CNN it's working closely with Community Health and trying to take down the hackers.

Serious information is on the line. Patients' names, addresses, birth dates, telephone and social security numbers are now in the hands of hackers from China, according to a filing Monday with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

As a result of this cyber attack, company officials say all of the patients who may be impacted will receive free credit monitoring.

"If you have the opportunity to take advantage of free credit monitoring, jump on it because it's something that some companies offer for a certain amount every month. If it's something that's extended to you for free, that's absolutely something you can jump on, take advantage of and keep yourself protected. That way they're notifying you as well if they see anything in the future," said Rebecca Gershowitz with Clear Point Credit Counseling.

She says this is especially important since cyber thieves can steal your identity.

"If they're opening accounts under your name and using them fraudulently, it is going to  look like you have more debt than you have…They're not going to be making payments back on those as well so you're going to experience delinquencies, you can have charge offs, legal action taken against you on accounts you didn't even know existed," Gershowitz added.

The company says it is working closely with federal law enforcement for the possible prosecution whoever is responsible. It has since removed the malware from its computer systems and is working with a forensic expert to prevent this from happening again.

Community Health Systems says no medical or credit card information was exposed in this threat. Those who have been impacted by the security secure will be notified in writing.

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