The personal information of thousands of retired Vermont teachers was stolen during a cybersecurity attack of a health care data system in January, the state government said on Wednesday.
Most of the information taken from the 7,091 retired state teachers were their names, dates of birth, addresses as well as medical and insurance information, said Deputy State Treasurer Gavin Boyles. He emphasized that social security numbers were not taken.
Boyles said the people affected were all members of the Vermont State Teachers’ Retirement System who had supplemental health benefits under the Vermont Blue Advantage plans at the time of the data breach on Jan. 30.
He said affected members should have received a letter describing which of their personal information was taken in the security breach of Fortra LLC. Fortra provided software that Vermont Blue Advantage used to exchange files with its supplemental benefits administrator NationsBenefits.
Boyles said NationsBenefits informed the Treasurer’s Office, which oversees the state retirement system, of the incident on May 16.
When asked about who conducted the cybersecurity attack, Boyles said the actors remain unknown. “NationsBenefits reported the matter to law enforcement, and the investigation is ongoing,” he said in an email Wednesday.
Meanwhile, NationsBenefits is offering all affected individuals 24 months of free identity protection. This includes credit monitoring, identity theft resolution and $1 million in identity theft insurance, said Joyce Sullivan, an officer of the Vermont Retired Educators Association.
“It’s important that people understand that there was a data breach,” said Sullivan, a retired teacher at Brattleboro Area Middle School who is also a member of the Vermont-National Education Association.
“There is some complimentary coverage being offered by NationsBenefits that we would recommend that they take advantage of,” she said.
Boyles said people who believe their personal information has been misused, or have become victims of identity theft, should contact local law enforcement.
NationsBenefits said it’s just one of many organizations affected by the data breach on Fortra, which it learned about on Feb. 7. In a statement, NationsBenefits said it has stopped using Fortra’s software and is putting in place more security procedures.
The Vermont State Teachers’ Retirement System, the public pension plan provided by the state, is open to K-12 public school teachers as well as teachers in historic independent schools, Vermont Retirement Systems Director Tim Duggan said.