UPDATE: Anthem offers 2 years of free credit monitoring

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Anthem Inc. is offering several levels of free identity theft protection to current and former customers dating back more than a decade as it continues to investigate how hackers broke into a database storing information for about 80 million people.

The Indianapolis company said Friday that for two years it will provide credit monitoring, identity theft repair assistance if someone experiences fraud, and identity protection designed specifically for children. The services are available to all current and former customers since 2004.

The Blue Cross-Blue Shield insurer said last week that hackers evaded several security layers to reach its database sometime after Dec. 10 and before Jan. 27, when a computer system administrator discovered outsiders were using his credentials to log into the system.

The intruders gained access to what cybersecurity experts believe is a particularly dangerous combination of information: Names, birthdates, email address, employment details, Social Security numbers, incomes and street addresses. Investigators have found no evidence that medical or credit card information was breached.

Anthem representatives have said they didn't know how many people were affected by the attack, but the number was probably in the "tens of millions."

The Identity Theft Resource Center says the attack was easily the largest it has recorded against a health care company. The nonprofit monitors identity theft and helps people affected by it.

Identity Theft Resource Center CEO Eva Velasquez said the Anthem breach may be more potent than other hacks that have stolen credit card numbers from retailers because of the size of the insurer's database and the type of information in it. Social Security numbers, in particular, can be dangerous because they can be used to commit several types of fraud.

"I would say this has the potential to cause more damage in the future than other breaches we have seen," she said.

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