Hackers have rocked public faith in large databases with claims to have seized millions of records from a prescription drug monitoring programme in the state of Virginia.
In yet another example of rapidly evolving cybercrime, the hackers are threatening to sell the information if they are not paid $10m ransom, according to the Washington Post.
The database, which includes details such as name, address and drugs dispensed, is designed to help doctors and pharmacies track and reduce the abuse and illegal sale of painkillers.
The Virginia Department of Health Professionals (DHP) that maintains the database has acknowledged that programme’s website was defaced, but said the database had been shut down and all data backed up securely.
As the FBI investigation continues, is not yet clear whether the threat is a hoax or not.
Despite the Virginia DHP’s reassurances, they are recommending that anyone whose details appear on the database to “remain vigilant” over the next 24 months.
Even if the threat is not genuine, the incident is likely to deepen concerns about UK, US and other government plans to create super databases containing personal data.