Industry News

Bupa warns health insurance information exposed by rogue employee

Healthcare insurance giant Bupa has warned customers that it has suffered a breach, after an employee inappropriately copied and removed customer information from the business.

In all, around 108,000 international health insurance policies are said to be affected.

An email sent to affected policy holders describes that although financial and medical information was thankfully not exposed, details such as names, dates of birth, nationalities, phone numbers, email addresses, membership numbers and other administrative data was taken.

An obvious risk is that a fraudster with access to the stolen data could use the information to target Bupa customers into revealing more sensitive information, such as their payment card details, by ringing up policy holders and pretending to be calling from the company.

Interestingly, Bupa says that the breach was not the result of an external hack – but rather a “deliberate act by [an] employee” who they “believe has made the information available to other parties.”

Bupa Global chief Sheldon Kenton explained in a video statement that the data breach involved information related to customers of just one division of Bupa – Bupa Global, which provides international health insurance mainly for people who work overseas or travel outside the UK on a regular basis.

Bupa says it has been in contact with the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), informed the police of the incident, and is taking “appropriate legal action”. It also says that it is putting additional security measures in place to try to avoid similar incidents happening in future.

To give Bupa credit it appears to be communicating openly with concerned customers, and going out of its way to answer questions. With luck the breach will be contained, and the damage down will be limited.

I have long thought that there is a huge amount of emphasis given to the threat posed by external hackers and internet threats, and maybe not enough focus made on the insider threat.

Consider this. You work hard to keep hackers out of your network, to avoid them from learning your passwords, or gaining access to your most sensitive information.

And yet, your company employs people who it allows to log into the corporate network every day, who have been given passwords by the IT team, and are trusted to act responsibly with the company’s data.

All it takes is one rogue employee, or indeed a careless worker, to cause a data breach that could cost your company millions and do untold damage to your brand.

About the author

Graham CLULEY

Graham Cluley is an award-winning security blogger, researcher and public speaker. He has been working in the computer security industry since the early 1990s, having been employed by companies such as Sophos, McAfee and Dr Solomon's. He has given talks about computer security for some of the world's largest companies, worked with law enforcement agencies on investigations into hacking groups, and regularly appears on TV and radio explaining computer security threats.

Graham Cluley was inducted into the InfoSecurity Europe Hall of Fame in 2011, and was given an honorary mention in the "10 Greatest Britons in IT History" for his contribution as a leading authority in internet security.

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