Breach, Data Security

Four McLean Hospital backup data tapes go missing, thousands affected

Massachusetts-based McLean Hospital is notifying about 12,600 individuals that their personal information was on four unencrypted backup data tapes – related to the Harvard Brain Tissue Resource Center (HBTRC) – that have gone missing.

How many victims? About 12,600.

What type of personal information? Names, dates of birth, diagnoses and Social Security numbers.

What happened? The personal information was on four unencrypted backup data tapes – related to the HBTRC – that have gone missing.

What was the response? McLean Hospital has implemented encryption of all new backup tapes going forward, as well as enhancements to its process for handling and storage of HBTRC backup data tapes. All affected individuals are being notified.

Details: McLean Hospital learned of the incident on May 29. The backup data tapes contained information on individuals associated with the HBTRC in various capacities, including deceased tissue donors, individuals who registered as potential donors and their family members. McLean Hospital said specialized software, equipment and technical expertise would be required to access the information on the tapes.

Quote: “Although to date, we have been unable to locate the missing backup data tapes, we have no reason to believe that any of the information on the tapes has been accessed or used inappropriately,” a notification posted to the McLean Hospital website said.

Source:, “McLean Hospital Notifies Research Participants of a Privacy Incident,” July 28, 2015.

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