A cyber attack earlier in February crippled health insurer Anthem. Now, the company has revealed that nearly 18.8 million people who are non-customers may have also been affected by the hack.

The Anthem cyber breach may have exposed not only employee and customer records of the company but also between 8.8 million and 18.8 million non-Anthem customers.

Anthem is the United States' second biggest health insurer and works in tandem with a network composed of other Blue Cross Blue Shield (BCBS) insurers, such as Blue Care of Michigan, Empire and Independence. Thanks to this network system, BCBS customers are eligible to receive health care in a region where an alternative company in the system operates BCBS.

Therefore, if an individual who was insured by a separate company that received healthcare services via Anthem may have their records compromised in the hacking that accessed Anthem's database.

Nearly 14 U.S. states have BCBS healthcare plans that are run by Anthem. The BCBS has 37 companies that cover nearly 105 million people.

This is the first time since the breach that Anthem has provided an estimate on the number of compromised health insurance plans not operated by the company.

Initially, Anthem had estimated the records accessed by the hackers via its database to be 80 million, including the 14 million incomplete records. However, it has since updated the figure to 78.8 million customers.

The cyber attack on Anthem compromised "personal information from our current and former members such as their names, birthdays, medical IDs/social security numbers, street addresses, email addresses and employment information, including income data."

The precise number of Anthem customers vis-à-vis non-Anthem clients who have been affected by the security breach is not currently known owing to the 14 million incomplete records. These incomplete health records are proving to be a stumbling block for the health insurers and preventing them from linking its members to their plan.

Anthem continues to investigate the breach, which is also being looked into by state and federal authorities.

By next week, Anthem is expected to mail letters to both its customers and BCBS members who are victims of the security breach. Anthem will offer credit monitoring, identity theft insurance, identity theft repair assistance and fraud detection for the next two years to all who have been affected by the breach.

Photo: Matthew Hurst | Flickr 

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