Acting AG Henry Secures $400,000 Settlement with DNA Diagnostics Center After Data Breach Exposed Pennsylvanians’ Personal Info

February 16, 2023 | Topic: Consumers

DNA Diagnostics Center Agrees to Strengthen its Network, Improve Data Security Practices, and Conduct Regular Assessments of its Computer Systems

HARRISBURG – Acting Attorney General Michelle A. Henry today announced a settlement with DNA Diagnostics Center – one of the world’s largest private DNA-testing companies offering diagnostic and genetic testing to help answer relationship, fertility, and health questions – after a data breach exposed the social security numbers of 12,663 Pennsylvanians who were subject to genetic testing between 2004 and 2012. The investigation, conducted by the Pennsylvania and Ohio Offices of Attorney General, 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. The DNA-testing company will pay $200,000 each to both the Pennsylvania and Ohio Attorneys General Offices.

“The more personal information these criminals gain access to, the more vulnerable the person whose information was stolen becomes,” Acting Attorney General Henry said. “That’s why my Office took action with the assistance of Attorney General Yost in Ohio. I am proud of the work our agents and attorneys do every day to protect Pennsylvanians’ most sensitive information.”

Beginning in May 2021, DNA Diagnostics Center was notified of suspicious activity in the network several times over a two-month period. However, 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. To make matters worse, DNA Diagnostics Center was 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.

“Negligence is not an excuse for letting consumer data get stolen,” said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost. “We’re proud to partner with Pennsylvania to ensure that citizens’ personal data stays private —which consumers rightly expect.”

The settlement requires DNA Diagnostics Center to maintain reasonable security policies designed to protect consumer personal information including:

  1.  Designating an employee to coordinate and supervise its information security program;
  2. Conducting security risk assessments of its networks that store personal information annually;
  3. 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;
  4. 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
  5. Detecting and responding to suspicious network activity within its network within reasonable means.

The investigation was completed in conjunction with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office and settlement negotiations were handled by Senior Deputy Attorney General Tim Murphy in Pennsylvania.

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