Undernews is the online report of the Progressive Review, edited by Sam Smith, who has covered Washington during all or part of one quarter of America's presidencies and edited alternative journals since 1964. The Review has been on the web since 1995. See main page for full contents

May 8, 2009


Washington Post - The FBI and Virginia State Police are searching for hackers who demanded that the state pay them a $10 million ransom by Thursday for the return of millions of personal pharmaceutical records they say they stole from the state's prescription drug database. The hackers claim to have accessed 8 million patient records and 35 million prescriptions collected by the Prescription Monitoring Program. . .

State officials say it is unclear whether the hackers were able to view the patient records, as they have claimed. If the theft is real, it would be the most serious cybercrime the state has faced in recent history.

The state-run database helps doctors and pharmacies track powerful narcotics and painkillers to reduce the abuse, theft and illegal sale of the controlled substances sold under labels including OxyContin and Vicodin. It was set up as a pilot program in southwestern Virginia in 2003 and went statewide in 2006. About 2,500 health-care professionals have access to the data.

Emily Wingfield, chief deputy director of the Department of Health Professions, said the database contained 31.3 million prescription records as of Jan. 1. About 1 million records are added every month, she said.


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