Tuesday, June 19, 2018
Military News

SOCom investigating claim that consultant gained entry to health care data

U.S. Special Operations Command is investigating a claim by a cybersecurity consultant that he was able to breach a database containing the personal information of hundreds of health care workers who treat commandos and their families.

The investigation was confirmed by Ken McGraw, a spokesman for SOCom, the command based at MacDill Air Force Base that helps guide the work of the military's commandos. Consultant Chris Vickery told the Tampa Bay Times he gained entry into the database of a Virginia company that provides health care workers for a SoCom program called Preservation of Force and Family.

The files he acquired do not appear to contain health care information about commandos, Vickery said. It is unknown whether anyone outside the company other than him had accessed the data, he said.

The information contains names, Social Security numbers, home and work addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, resumes and security clearances for employees with Potomac Healthcare Solutions.

It also includes the company's jobsite locations around the United States as well as in Japan, Ireland and other foreign lands. As part of the program, the health care workers travel to locations where commandos are based.

Potomac Healthcare Solutions is a subcontractor with Booz Allen Hamilton, which in 2013 won a contract worth up to $475 million to run the Preservation of the Force and Family program. The SOCom program provides mental, physical and spiritual care to commandos with the Navy SEALs, Army Green Berets and Rangers, Delta Force members and Air Force and Marine commandos, according to the Potomac website. Families also are covered.

The program is aimed at "decreasing the rate of physical and emotional injuries from all causes, and significantly accelerating return to duty times," the website says.

Many of the employees in the database hold the highest federal security clearance, said Vickery, who still has the data.

Potomac officials said in a statement to the Times on Monday that they are aware of Vickery's claim. They said internal and external reviews have turned up no sign yet that any sensitive information was compromised.

"The privacy and security of information remains a top priority, and we will continue to work diligently to address any issues or concerns," Potomac said.

Vickery said he found the data by using a search engine that sweeps the so-called Internet of Things, a networking of devices connected to the Internet including security cameras, refrigerators and even light bulbs.

Vickery is the recipient of the 2016 Data Detective Award from Patient Privacy Rights and Harvard University's Data Privacy Lab. He said he has helped in investigations conducted by the Federal Trade Commission, FBI, Texas Attorney General's Office, Secret Service and the state of Kansas.

He gained entry to the Potomac data during a Christmas Day search but did not realize until the next day what he had found, he said. On Sunday, Vickery posted redacted copies of some of the data on his blog at MacKeeper, an Internet security firm. The blog item was first reported by ZDNet, an Internet technology website.

"We take any allegation of a data breach very seriously, including those from our subcontractors," said James Fisher, a Booz Allen Hamilton spokesman, in an email message to the Times. "We are looking into this alleged event."

Aside from health care workers' personal information, Vickery was able to obtain a list of hundreds of millions of dollars in future contracts Potomac is seeking, as well as a number of password-protected financial databases he said he does not want to try breaching.

On his blog post, Vickery said he had difficulty persuading Potomac officials to take his breach seriously. He said that as of Monday afternoon, no one from SOCom had contacted him.

"It's not hard to imagine a Hollywood plot line in which a situation like this results in someone being kidnapped or blackmailed for information," Vickery wrote in his blog. "Let's hope that I was the only outsider to come across this gem. Let's really hope that no hostile entities found it. Loose backups sink ships."

Contact Howard Altman at [email protected] or (813) 225-3112. Follow @haltman

Comments
New Yorker magazine apologizes to combat-wounded Pasco veteran over staffer’s Tweet

New Yorker magazine apologizes to combat-wounded Pasco veteran over staffer’s Tweet

The New Yorker magazine has apologized to a combat-wounded Pasco County veteran about a tweet posted by one of its staffers.Over the weekend, New Yorker staffer Talia Lavin wrote in a tweet that a tattoo on the left elbow of Justin Gaertner looked li...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Nazi or not? Tattoo sparks Twitter storm over wounded Pasco veteran

Nazi or not? Tattoo sparks Twitter storm over wounded Pasco veteran

The federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency is pushing back against a social media post implying that a combat-wounded New Port Richey veteran has a Nazi symbol tattooed on his arm. In a tweet Monday afternoon, ICE officials denied the ve...
Updated: 6 hours ago
Fifty years after he disappeared over Laos, remains of Northeast High grad return home

Fifty years after he disappeared over Laos, remains of Northeast High grad return home

ST. PETERSBURG — In November 1969, at a hotel in Bangkok, Thailand, Air Force Capt. James White and his wife Sharon enjoyed their last night out together, dining on hotel room service with family friends Neil and Janet Armstrong.It was four months af...
Published: 06/18/18
Where’s the new VA clinic going? Not in the city of New Port Richey

Where’s the new VA clinic going? Not in the city of New Port Richey

NEW PORT RICHEY — The federal government’s search for a home for its new Veterans Administration community outpatient clinic is focusing on the Little Road corridor in west Pasco.Three locations in the running for the VA clinic are identified in the ...
Published: 06/18/18
Chicago soldier killed in Korea finally being laid to rest

Chicago soldier killed in Korea finally being laid to rest

CHICAGO — Not long after her father went missing during the Korean War, Carol Elkin spotted then-Gen. Dwight Eisenhower in downtown Chicago and did what any kid might do when coming face to face with the nation’s most famous soldier: She ...
Published: 06/17/18
Howard Altman: New Port Richey veteran out front in campaign for burn-pit benefits

Howard Altman: New Port Richey veteran out front in campaign for burn-pit benefits

Last week, the halls of Congress became the latest battleground in a campaign by tens of thousands of veterans seeking acknowledgment of the health problems they suffer from exposure to open-air refuse burn pits in Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere.Nav...
Published: 06/14/18
Airman with top-secret clearance, who disappeared in 1983, is discovered living in California

Airman with top-secret clearance, who disappeared in 1983, is discovered living in California

Before he mysteriously disappeared and landed on the Air Force Most Wanted list, Capt. William Howard Hughes Jr. phoned home to tell his mother and father that he was going to the Netherlands.It was July 17, 1983, and the Air Force was sending Hughes...
Published: 06/12/18

Marine Corps weighs wooing older members for new cyber force

SAN DIEGO — The head of the Marine Corps says it’s time the U.S. military branch known for its fierce, young warriors becomes a little more mature. The Marine Corps is considering offering bonuses and other perks to entice older, more experienced Mar...
Published: 06/08/18
Updated: 06/09/18
Military members stationed overseas fret as flying pets home gets harder

Military members stationed overseas fret as flying pets home gets harder

Missy Lee, a civilian who works for the U.S. Army, paid Delta Air Lines $5,000 to transport her two white shepherds as cargo on the same flight she took when moving to Japan in 2014.In the years since, the industry of shipping pets overseas has drast...
Published: 06/07/18
Howard Altman: Calls to veterans hotline jump after program expands statewide

Howard Altman: Calls to veterans hotline jump after program expands statewide

During the first three months of its expanded, statewide hotline for veterans, the Crisis Center of Tampa Bay estimates about 2,000 former service members called in seeking help because they were considering suicide.That’s a powerful testament to the...
Published: 06/06/18
Updated: 06/13/18