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Cancer patients continue to face blackmail threats weeks after Fred Hutch hack

SEATTLE — The fallout continues from a massive data breach at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center almost a month ago. Hackers cracked into the health center’s servers and stole patient’s personal information. Now they’re blackmailing those patients for ransom.

One Fred Hutch patient, Jenny Stewart says she can’t believe someone would target people who are already in the fight of their lives.

“Days with appointments at Fred Hutch were very long, it’s exhausting,” said Stewart. She added, “It was four months of chemo, and then every three months I had to follow up for the first year.”

Jenny Stewart battled Stage 4 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma at the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center. She says that treatment is the reason she’s alive today.

“All the doctors are wonderful. It was really sad walking in the building and seeing people from all walks of life, all demographics and ages suffering through cancer,” she said.

In 2022, Fred Hutch helped about 53,000 people with a cancer diagnosis, fight to live another day. Now those same people are under another attack from hackers that cracked into the Cancer Center’s servers on November 19th.

Jenny said she learned about that breach from an email Fred Hutch sent her. That email also warned her a ransom email may be in her inbox.

“I just searched the words Fred Hutch and up popped the email from the hacker, it was a ransom email.” Jenny added, “They had some pretty specific information in there with the cyber-attack and how much money they wanted in exchange for me protecting my credit and my information.”

She deleted her email immediately and didn’t pay the ransom. In another ransom email KIRO 7 obtained previously, the subject line reads, “[FREDHUTCH] QUINLAN NICHOLAS Your private data and medical history is being sold on dark net markets.”

It also says Quinlan is one of 800,000 patients whose “names, SSN, addresses, phone numbers, medical history, lab results, and insurance history,” is compromised.

The fee to keep that information off the dark web is $50.

“I think it’s disgusting that they’d take advantage of cancer patients of all people, people who are struggling at the worst time of their lives,” said Stewart.

She also says, that even after this breach, she still trusts Fred Hutch with her life and her personal information.

“What I’ve done is I’ve already frozen my credit and I’m doing more frequent checks of my statements and accounts just to keep an eye on it.  I’ve been a patient there for so long and I still trust them. I think these cyber-attacks can happen anywhere and it’s eye-opening,” Stewart explained.

Fred Hutch is still working to find out how many patients had their information leaked in the breach. If you got a ransom email Fred Hutch says not to pay that ransom and to report it on the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center.