June 3, 2019 By David Bisson 2 min read

People Inc., a nonprofit organization based in New York state, traced a recent data breach to compromised employee email accounts.

On May 29, People Inc. disclosed a data breach that involved personal health information (PHI) belonging to its former and current customers. The human services provider said it uncovered the incident back in February when it observed an instance of unauthorized access involving the email account of one of its employees.

Upon discovering the breach, the nonprofit organization reset the password for the affected account and engaged an independent digital forensics firm to figure out what had happened. This investigation found that unknown individuals had compromised two employee accounts containing customer information, including names, Social Security numbers, financial data and medical records.

People Inc. responded to its discovery by sending out notification letters to all affected customers with instructions to help safeguard their information against identity theft and an offer for complimentary identity protection services through Experian. In addition, the organization set up a toll-free call center to answer questions about the incident.

One of Many Recent Incidents Involving Nonprofits

People Inc. isn’t the only nonprofit organization that’s recently suffered a data breach. In March 2019, for instance, CTV News Channel reported that attackers compromised an electronic medical record system used by Natural Health Services and its parent company Sunniva Inc. In the process, they exposed the PHI of about 34,000 medical marijuana patients.

A month later, NBC News reported on a string of attacks against multiple chapters of a nonprofit organization associated with the FBI that exposed members’ personal information.

How to Defend Against an Email-Related Data Breach

Security personnel can help their organizations defend against a data breach by taking a layered approach to email security. This method should use a security information and event management (SIEM) tool, perimeter protection and email scanning tools to defend against digital threats. Additionally, security professionals should leverage threat intelligence streams to remain aware of threat actors who seek to compromise employee accounts via email.

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