A Cyberattack on a UnitedHealth Unit Disrupts Prescription Drug Orders

A cyberattack on a unit affiliated with UnitedHealthcare, the nation’s largest insurer, has disrupted drug prescription orders at thousands of pharmacies for nearly a week.

The assault on the unit, Change Healthcare, a division of United’s Optum, was discovered last Wednesday. The attack appeared to be by a foreign country, according to two senior federal law enforcement officials, who expressed alarm at the extent of the disruption on Monday.

UnitedHealth Group, the conglomerate, said in a federal filing that it had been forced to disconnect some of Change Healthcare’s vast digital network from its clients, and as of Monday, had not been able to restore all of those services.

Change handles some 15 billion transactions a year, representing as many as one in three U.S. patient records and involving not just prescriptions but dental, clinical and other medical needs. The company was acquired by UnitedHealth Group for $13 billion in 2022.

This latest attack underscores the vulnerability of health care data, especially patients’ personal information, including their private medical records. Hundreds of breaches at hospitals, health plans and doctors’ offices are being investigated, according to federal records.

In this case, the disturbance has been widespread, including for U.S. military overseas. Change acts as a digital intermediary to helps pharmacies verify a patient’s insurance coverage for their prescriptions, and some reports indicate that people have been forced to pay in cash.

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