November 16, 2009

Bogus Online Drug Sales On The Rise During Pandemic

Web security firm Sophos reported Monday that some online criminals are attempting to sell fake flu drug doses to unsuspecting customers in hopes of cashing in on public fears sparked by the H1N1 swine flu pandemic.

The World Health Organization has recommended the use of Tamiflu for people with symptoms of the H1N1 flu as a treatment to battle flu symptoms.

Sophos reported that it has discovered hundreds of millions of spam advertisements on the Web selling bogus antiviral drugs such as Tamiflu.

Sophos pointed the attacks to Russian cybercriminals who are making millions from selling fake antiviral medicines online.

"Panic-induced stockpiling by individuals who aren't officially classified as being at risk of contracting swine flu, and therefore anxious they won't receive Tamiflu from the NHS, will not only line cybercriminals' pockets with millions of pounds in cash but also grant them access to sensitive personal data to be used for other crimes," Sophos said in a statement.

"Working day and night, thousands of affiliates use criminal methods including spam, adware and malware to drive as much traffic to their partners' stores as possible, which then sell high-profit illegal goods as part of a multi-million dollar industry."

Sophos said the top five countries found to be purchasing Tamiflu and other drugs from the Canadian Pharmacy - thereby unknowingly assisting additional criminal activity - are the US, Germany, UK, Canada and France.

Sophos said it is possible to earn an average of $16,000 a day promoting pharmaceutical Web sites. However, cybercriminals can be part of more than one affiliate network, and some have reported making more than $100,000 per day.

In related news, the European Council is reportedly readying for a new convention to stop the manufacture of counterfeit drugs and their sales.

"The convention is aimed at protecting the public health system and individuals," Hugo Bonar from the Irish Medicines Board and an EC expert told AFP during the Fourth Meeting of the Internet Governance Forum at the Egyptian Red Sea resort of Sharm el-Sheikh.

The EC is expected to begin inviting states to sign the convention in 2010.

"The global nature of the Internet makes it an excellent way to promote health literacy. However, it also implies risks the new convention will address, such as the marketing of medicines and healthcare products that can be dangerous," the EC said in a statement distributed at the IGF.


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