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Met investigates medical school hack

Docs get nasty, libellous emails

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Updated Police are investigating a security breach at a London university medical school that resulted in users getting a stream of obscene and defamatory emails.

Unidentified hackers sent a series of libellous, obscene and abusive emails, one of which falsely claiming that executive members of the St George's University of London medical school were implicated in a "recent child pornography sting". An earlier message, sent to subscribers of a closed subscription-based list, falsely claimed that an online directory for doctors and nurses maintained by the school had been "closed due to Aids", The Guardian reports.

The Primary Care Electronic Library (PCEL) database involved in the incident acts as a yellow pages for the medical professional, listing contact names and numbers; it does not hold medical records.

In a statement (extract below), St George spokesman emphasised that the affected PCEL database is run off a different system than the St George's University of London (SGUL) main server. The PCEL server has been take offline to allow an investigation into how the attack may have taken place, as well as to prevent any further malfeasance.

Last week an email list within the Primary Care Electronic Library (PCEL) site was compromised. A number of unsolicited emails were consequently sent to members of the list. There are currently on-going investigations into how access was gained to the subscription list. Due to the offensive nature of the emails, the site was immediately taken down pending this investigation.

We would like to assure anyone who received one of these emails that they were not sent by any member of the PCEL team. The content of these emails was extremely offensive and unfounded, and we apologise for any offence caused to those who received these emails. This was an isolated incident, affecting the PCEL server only, which runs independently of the St George’s, University of London (SGUL) main server. No SGUL data, including confidential details of SGUL staff, students or partners, was compromised as a result of this situation.

The PCEL site, SGUL explains, is a "searchable directory of information relating to primary care, ran by a group of academics within SGUL". The database aims to act as a resource for improving patient care by pooling together already publicly available information in one location. ®

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