US insurance company loses almost one million customer records

Data breach

US health insurer Centene has lost the personal records of 950,000 of its members that were stored on hard drives, the company has revealed.

Details include customers' names, addresses and dates of birth, security numbers, membership details and health information, although Centene said no financial details have been compromised.

The company's CEO said it doesn't believe the data has fallen into the wrong hands or has been stolen, but it is simply struggling to find the whereabouts of the hard drives.

"While we don't believe this information has been used inappropriately, out of abundance of caution and in transparency, we are disclosing an ongoing search for the hard drives," said Centene's chief executive, Michael Neidorff. "The drives were a part of a data project using laboratory results to improve the health outcomes of our members."

The customers affected had been processed by Centene's laboratory between 2009 and 2015. Centene doesn't think much harm can be done if the information falls in the wrong hands, Alison Rea, a lawyer at Kemp Little, told the BBC that the lost data should be a big concern for the firm, because of the nature of the information.

"As Centene provides health insurance solutions for the under-insured and uninsured public in the USA, the release of details of who their members are and their medical information could be highly damaging," she said.

"Not only will it cause personal distress to the individuals involved if their friends and families find out about their medical history, but also because it could make it harder for those people to secure medical health insurance with other providers in the future."

It is likely that Centene will have to make a report to US regulatory authorities and will be fined for any data loss, Rea explained.

Clare Hopping
Freelance writer

Clare is the founder of Blue Cactus Digital, a digital marketing company that helps ethical and sustainability-focused businesses grow their customer base.

Prior to becoming a marketer, Clare was a journalist, working at a range of mobile device-focused outlets including Know Your Mobile before moving into freelance life.

As a freelance writer, she drew on her expertise in mobility to write features and guides for ITPro, as well as regularly writing news stories on a wide range of topics.