Once more into the breach

Another health insurer data breach affecting 1.1 million consumers highlights the need for the Illinois House to pass the Data Security and Consumer Protection Bill.

Yesterday CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield announced that 1.1 million consumer accounts were breached in a cyber attack last year. Hackers made off with consumer’s names, dates of birth, email addresses, and insurance numbers. The breach of this information does not pose an immediate risk of financial harm to consumers, but does place consumers at risk of “phishing” attempts where criminals utilize their existing knowledge of consumer data to convince consumers to share additional information.

This is the third major breach by U.S. health insurer’s this year, and demonstrates the need for much stronger data security policies by entities that collect, store, sell and transfer huge amounts of consumers’ personal information on a daily basis. 

Illinois is poised to pass legislation that would take significant steps to limit future data breaches and protect more private consumer information. Senate Bill 1833, sponsoered by Senator Dan Biss and Representative Ann WIlliams, has passed through the state Senate and House committe. We expect a full house vote within the next day. The bill is a major legislative priority for Attorney General Lisa Madigan and Illinois PIRG, and also has the support of other consumer organizations includeing Citizen Action, the Woodstock Institute, and Heartland Alliance.

The bill requires entities that collect and store personal consumer data to adopt “reasonable security measures” to protect that data. It also expands the definitition of private information to include things such as geoloaction data and consumer marketing data.

You can help us push this important bill over the finish line by emailing your representative now urging them to support SB1833.

Illinois PIRG also has some tips in the event of a breach which you can read here.


Abe Scarr

State Director, Illinois PIRG; Energy and Utilities Program Director, PIRG

Abe Scarr is the director of Illinois PIRG and is the PIRG Energy and Utilities Program Director. He is a lead advocate in the Illinois Capitol and in the media for stronger consumer protections, utility accountability, and good government. In 2017, Abe led a coalition to pass legislation to implement automatic voter registration in Illinois, winning unanimous support in the Illinois General Assembly for the bill. He has co-authored multiple in-depth reports on Illinois utility policy and leads coalition campaigns to reform the Peoples Gas pipe replacement program. As PIRG's Energy and Utilities Program Director, Abe supports PIRG energy and utility campaigns across the country and leads the national Gas Stoves coalition. He also serves as a board member for the Consumer Federation of America. Abe lives in Chicago, where he enjoys biking, cooking and tending his garden.