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Cyberattacks on the Viamedis and Almerys mutual insurance companies: the headache for opticians to ensure third-party payment

Healthcare professionals, particularly opticians, are bearing the brunt of the repercussions of recent cyberattacks targeting third-party payment operators.

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Cyberattacks on the Viamedis and Almerys mutual insurance companies: the headache for opticians to ensure third-party payment

Healthcare professionals, particularly opticians, are bearing the brunt of the repercussions of recent cyberattacks targeting third-party payment operators. Last week, Viamedis and Almerys were forced to temporarily halt their activities following data leaks, causing a chain reaction. For opticians, it is impossible to transmit their customers' files and therefore, to ensure third-party payment. With therefore the obligation for customers to advance the costs.

“The cash flow is under pressure,” notes Angélique Subery, Atol optician in the Rennes region. “We put customer frames aside while waiting for things to clear up,” adds the professional. Same observation in the Optic 2000 stores, “with files which are put aside” and “opticians who cannot be invoiced”, deplores Benoît Jaubert, general director of the group. If he assures “that there is no concern at the moment”, he “remains very vigilant” about the evolution of the situation.

On the customer side, these disappointments “slow them down in their purchasing efforts,” observes Angélique Subery. “Many French people rely on third-party payment to access equipment,” underlines, for his part, Hugues Verdier-Davioud, president of the National Federation of Opticians of France (FNOF). In total, more than 33 million policyholders are affected by these cyberattacks, according to the National Commission for Information Technology and Liberties (Cnil). To avoid stopping their activity, some opticians offer deferred payment, “but not everyone can afford it,” explains Hugues Verdier-Davioud.

For Benoît Jaubert, general manager of Optic 2000, a “call for air” is to be expected when the situation returns to normal. If Almerys does not provide any news on its site, Viamedis reopened its this Monday, at 1 p.m. The group assures that its platform “will be accessible from Tuesday February 13 to Saturday February 17 from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.” and that “the third-party payment management service is now restored”. “Payment catch-ups are in progress and may take a few days to arrive in your bank account,” the company says.

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According to the CNIL, the data stolen during the cyberattacks on Viamedis and Almerys are the following: “marital status, date of birth and social security number, name of the health insurer as well as the guarantees of the contract subscribed” . So many elements that allow hackers to usurp the identity of policyholders. A preliminary investigation has also been opened by the Paris prosecutor's office which fears "one of the most massive data leaks observed in France".

For health professionals, this episode should allow “to ask the right questions” and to question the exchange of customer data, indicates Benoît Jaubert. Hugues Verdier-Davioud, of the FNOF, has been campaigning for several months for the establishment of a “blockchain traceability system which makes it possible to trace the product ordered by the optician and to know whether it is indeed the product manufactured by the glassmaker and invoiced to the customer. “It’s neutral, independent and it protects health data,” he assures, regretting the refusal of complementary health platforms.

Opticians are not the only ones calling for a new data transmission system, like hearing aid professionals. Brice Jantzem, president of the profession's union, observes a situation “fairly close to what is happening in optics”. “A universal system would be simpler rather than multiplying players. On one side we have the Social Security funds and on the other side there are lots of systems that are piling up,” he points out. A complex situation for patients, who often find themselves trapped in the twists and turns of administration.

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