16 February 2023- Acting Attorney General Michelle A. Henry announced a settlement with DNA Diagnostics Center, one of the world’s largest private DNA-testing companies, over a data breach that exposed the social security numbers of 12,663 Pennsylvanians who were subject to genetic testing between 2004 and 2012. The investigation revealed that DNA Diagnostics Center failed to properly employ reasonable data security measures in protecting consumers’ sensitive personal information, in violation of Pennsylvania’s Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Law.
As a result of the settlement, DNA Diagnostics Center will pay $200,000 each to both the Pennsylvania and Ohio Attorneys General Offices. The settlement also requires DNA Diagnostics Center to maintain reasonable security policies designed to protect consumer personal information, including designating an employee to coordinate and supervise its information security program, conducting security risk assessments of its networks that store personal information annually, and designing and implementing reasonable security measures for the protection and storing of personal information.
The data breach occurred in 2021, and while DNA Diagnostics Center was notified of suspicious activity in the network several times over a two-month period, the company did not activate an incident response plan until August 2021 when the data security provider informed the company that there were indications of dangerous malware on the company’s network. A third-party forensic report identified numerous security lapses that allowed the hacker to back up 28 databases and remove the data out of the network. DNA Diagnostics Center was also unaware that the stolen databases, which were part of a 2012 acquisition of Orchid Cellmark, contained the social security numbers of Pennsylvanians who were subject to genetic testing from as early as 2004.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost commented that negligence is not an excuse for letting consumer data get stolen and that citizens’ personal data should stay private. The settlement negotiations were handled by Senior Deputy Attorney General Tim Murphy in Pennsylvania, and the investigation was completed in conjunction with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office.
The settlement requires DNA Diagnostics Center to maintain reasonable security policies designed to protect consumer personal information including:
- Designating an employee to coordinate and supervise its information security program;
- Conducting security risk assessments of its networks that store personal information annually;
- Maintaining an updated asset inventory of the entire network and disabling and/or removing any assets identified that are not necessary for any legitimate business purpose;
- Designing and implementing reasonable security measures for the protection and storing of personal information, including timely software updates, penetration-testing of its networks, and implementation of reasonable access controls such as multi-factor authentication; and
- Detecting and responding to suspicious network activity within its network within reasonable means.