FBI investigates hacker's $10M ransom for Virginia medical records

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While Virginia state officials said there is no evidence that personal information was stolen by hackers who accessed a computer system that collects data on approximately 8.3 million patients, the State Police and the FBI have launched a formal investigation into the matter.

A data breach monitoring Web site posted a hacker's "ransom note" on April 30, requesting $10 million to return the information covering 35.6 million patient prescriptions. The note claimed that original and backup copies had been deleted although the password to an encrypted backup would be provided once the ransom was paid, reported the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

Officials are unsure yet whether affected information includes Social Security numbers and driver's license numbers, as the hacker claimed, according to the Times-Dispatch. However, the Virginia Department of Health Professions (DHP) has advised patients and providers who may have data in its Prescription Monitoring Program files to be "extra vigilant over the next 12 to 24 months in reviewing their financial statements and credit reports."

The monitoring program maintains records of prescriptions for narcotics and other controlled drugs.

"While [the department] cannot comment directly on an ongoing investigation, we can assure the public that all precautions are being taken for DHP operations to continue safely and securely," said Sandra Whitley Ryals, director of the Virginia DHP, according to the Times-Dispatch.