Thursday, May 7, 2009

RICHMOND (AP) | A hacker who accessed millions of personal pharmaceutical records from the state’s prescription-drug database is the target of a state and federal criminal dragnet, Gov. Tim Kaine said Wednesday.

Virginia State Police and the FBI are searching for whomever accessed patient and prescription records collected by the Prescription Monitoring Program, Mr. Kaine said in a telephone interview with the Associated Press.

“This is a crime, and it is being treated that way,” the governor said.

The state-run program allows medical professionals and pharmacies statewide to track powerful narcotics and painkillers to reduce the abuse, theft and illegal sale of the controlled substances sold under labels such as OxyContin and Vicodin.

The head of a state agency that manages Virginia’s prescription-drug database said officials are taking precautions to ensure that the program continues to operate securely. People are still able to get prescriptions filled.

The program’s computer system has been shut down since last Thursday’s breach, but all of the data was backed up and those files have been secured, said Sandra Whitley Ryals, director of the Department of Health Professions.

The breach was reported on WikiLeaks, an online clearinghouse for leaked documents. The site said 8 million patient records and 35 million prescriptions were accessed. Some included Social Security numbers.

The hackers reportedly are seeking a $10 million ransom to return the data.

Mr. Kaine, a Democrat, said the act infuriated him and that the state will make no payments.

“They really think they’ll get anything out of this?” he said. “Not a chance.”

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