The American Dental Association (ADA) says it may have inadvertently mailed malware-laced USB thumb drives to thousands of dental offices nationwide.
The problem first came to light in a post on the DSL Reports Security Forum. DSLR member “Mike” from Pittsburgh got curious about the integrity of a USB drive that the ADA mailed to members to share updated “dental procedure codes” — codes that dental offices use to track procedures for billing and insurance purposes.
“Oh wow the usually inept ADA just sent me new codes,” Mike wrote. “I bet some marketing genius had this wonderful idea instead of making it downloadable. I can’t wait to plug an unknown USB into my computer that has PHI/HIPAA on it…” [link added].
Sure enough, Mike looked at the code inside one of the files on the flash drive and found it tries to open a Web page that has long been tied to malware distribution. The domain is used by crooks to infect visitors with malware that lets the attackers gain full control of the infected Windows computer.
Reached by KrebsOnSecurity, the ADA said it sent the following email to members who have shared their email address with the organization:
“We have received a handful of reports that malware has been detected on some flash drives included with the 2016 CDT manual,” the ADA said. “The ‘flash drive’ is the credit card sized USB storage device that contains an electronic copy of the CDT 2016 manual. It is located in a pocket on the inside back cover of the manual. Your anti-virus software should detect the malware if it is present. However, if you haven’t used your CDT 2016 flash drive, please throw it away.
To give you access to an electronic version of the 2016 CDT manual, we are offering you the ability to download the PDF version of the 2016 CDT manual that was included on the flash drive.
To download the PDF version of the CDT manual:
1. Click on the link »ebusiness.ada.org/login/ ··· ion.aspx
2. Log in with your ADA.org user ID and password
3. After you log in you will automatically be directed to a page showing CDT 2016 Digital Edition.
4. Click on the “Download” button to save the file to your computer for use.
If you have difficulty accessing or downloading the file, please call 1.800.947.4746 and a Member Service Advisor will be happy to assist you.
Many of the flash drives do not contain the Malware. If you have already used your flash drive and it worked as expected (it displayed a menu linking to chapters of the 2016 CDT manual), you may continue using it.
We apologize if this issue has caused you any inconvenience and thank you for being a valued ADA customer.”
This incident could give new meaning to the term “root canal.” It’s not clear how the ADA could make a statement that anti-virus should detect the malware, since presently only some of the many antivirus tools out there will flag the malware link as malicious.
In response to questions from this author, the ADA said the USB media was manufactured in China by a subcontractor of an ADA vendor, and that some 37,000 of the devices have been distributed. The not-for-profit ADA is the nation’s largest dental association, with more than 159,000 members.
“Upon investigation, the ADA concluded that only a small percentage of the manufactured USB devices were infected,” the organization wrote in an emailed statement. “Of note it is speculated that one of several duplicating machines in use at the manufacturer had become infected during a production run for another customer. That infected machine infected our clean image during one of our three production runs. Our random quality assurance testing did not catch any infected devices. Since this incident, the ADA has begun to review whether to continue to use physical media to distribute products.”