US surgeon general warns of possible computer breach

The Health and Human Services Department is investigating a possible breach of a computer system holding personal information of more than 6,700 doctors, nurses and other uniformed public health workers overseen by the surgeon general.

It is the latest in a series of breaches involving federal employee records — the largest being the break-in at the Office of Personnel Management that exposed security clearances, background checks and fingerprint records of more than 21 million current, former and prospective federal employees.

Surgeon General Vivek Murthy sent an email this week to members of the U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps warning them that unauthenticated visitors to a computer site could have accessed their names, dates of birth and Social Security numbers.

"Based on our investigation, affected individuals are those served by this website-based system: current, retired and former Commissioned Corps officers and their dependents," the email said.

The department says the problem was discovered on Sept. 20, when a user noticed something amiss with the system, which has since been disabled. The information was accessible, but investigators are still trying to find out whether any of it was actually stolen or compromised.

The U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps is a team of public health workers that works within various federal agencies and deploys all over the world to health crises and national emergencies. They have responded, for instance, to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, Hurricane Katrina and the earthquake in Haiti.