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Cyberattack on state's electronic death registry affected about 3,400 records

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Sophia McCullough
Hawaii Public Radio

The Hawaiʻi Department of Health is responding to a January cyberattack on the state's Electronic Death Registry System after investigators found about 3,400 death records might have been compromised.

At the time of the breach, the department was notified by its cybersecurity vendor that login credentials for the EDRS were placed for sale on the dark web. After shutting down the EDRS account, the DOH said they began looking into the cause.

After completing an investigation on Feb. 15, the department found the compromised login belonged to a medical certifier at a local hospital whose account was not deactivated after he left the position in June 2021.

"My understanding is that in the investigation, they found, I guess, two IP addresses —one was in Kentucky, and the other was in the Netherlands. So that's why Homeland Security was notified because this was something that occurred, that originated outside of our state lines," said Shawn Hamamoto, the communications director for the department.

The compromised records had a date of death ranging from 1998 to 2023, with 90% occurring in 2014 or earlier.

Death records contain personal information including the decedent’s name, social security number, address, sex, date of birth, date of death, place of death and cause of death.

The department stated that 99% of the compromised records were certified, meaning the records couldn't be altered. The remaining 1% were reviewed for changes by the DOH following the incident.

State officials said they will send out notification letters next week to surviving spouses or the person who reported the death to the mortuary.

"We are urging the affected parties to remain vigilant about any remaining unsettled matters, such as, you know, accounts, estate, life insurance claims, or Social Security survivor benefits," Hamamoto said.

Additionally, he said additional security measures will be added to the system.

"We are also conducting a security review of all of our DOH accounts, and making the necessary adaptions as needed," he said.

Shawn Hamamato, communications director for the Hawaiʻi Department of Health
The Conversation - March 10, 2023

Zoe Dym is a news producer at Hawaiʻi Public Radio.
Catherine Cruz is the host of The Conversation. Originally from Guam, she spent more than 30 years at KITV, covering beats from government to education. Contact her at ccruz@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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