Private? Are you sure? (Opinion)

That hacker who claims to have stolen millions Virginians’ prescription drug records won’t find a taker with his ransom note to the state. “Not a chance,” said Gov. Tim Kaine.

But that doesn’t mean the he couldn’t find a buyer somewhere else, as he threatens to do if Virginia doesn’t pay him $10 million.

And what a prize the database could be in criminal hands: the records of 35 million prescriptions for controlled substances — powerful drugs such as Vicodin, Ritalin, OxyContin, Tylenol with codeine — prescribed to 8 million Virginians. The database does not list Social Security numbers, but it does have name, address and date of birth of the drug recipient, along with identifying numbers for the doctor and pharmacy.

In addition to concerns that a list at this scale could be a gold mine for identity theft, a database like this one needs to be secure from targeted intrusion, too — from the prying eyes of unethical employers filtering job applicants or hostile spouses in ugly divorces.


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