The New Jersey Attorney General announced this week that it has fined Virtua Medical Group, which is comprised of more than 50 medical practices in New Jersey for failing to protect the privacy of 1,650 patients when their medical information was accessible online.

The information was uploaded to a password-protected FTP website, but during a software upgrade to the server, the password protection was removed, which allowed the data to be accessed without a password. The information was also searchable and 462 patients’ information was indexed by search engines.

Although the misconfiguration of the website was caused by Virtua’s business associate, the New Jersey AG fined the medical group for HIPAA violations because it found the Virtua failed to conduct a risk assessment, a security awareness program had not been implemented for the entire workforce, no procedures had been implemented to be able to retrieve copies of the ePHI maintained on the FTP site, no logs had been maintained and the information was exposed. According to the AG, these constituted violations of both HIPAA and the New Jersey Consumer Fraud Act.

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