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Vulnerabilities / Threats

8/4/2009
04:12 PM
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Most Microsoft Bing-Sponsored Search Ads Point To Phony Pharmacies

Nine out of 10 Internet pharmacies that advertise on new search engine are fraudulent or illegal, according to new report from e-fraud watchdogs KnujOn and LegitScript

Almost 90 percent of Microsoft Bing's sponsored search results for prescription drugs and pharmacies lead to rogue online pharmacies that sell prescription drugs illegally or without a prescription, according to a report released today.

KnujOn and LegitScript teamed up for the report, which also found some Bing ads for legitimate online U.S. pharmacies that had been hijacked to redirect users to a phony pharmacy's site.

The report also says some of the pharmacies have links to Russian and Eastern European organized crime syndicates, which it says run thousands of phony Internet pharmacies, including Glavmed, 33Drugs, gold-rx, and Rx-Commission. Illegal pharmacies advertise everything from male enhancement drugs to addictive pain medications and sleep remedies like Ambien, but many of the pills these phony sites sell are counterfeit, according to the report.

Microsoft declined to comment on the report.

But this is not just a Bing problem, the authors of the report say. They plan to also examine other search engines to look for the same abuse. "We want to cover all of the search engines," says Garth Bruen, creator of KnujOn.

"The most striking factor is these people are paying for marketing. They're not just hacking and sending spam and using 'free services.' They are actually investing in their products, and that tells me they are making lots of money," Bruen says.

Though the report (PDF) and research focused on fake pharmacies, such search engine abuse is occurring in other industries, as well, Bruen says. "When I search for 'Discover Card' on Google, the first three pages are all fake banks and phishing sites. And Discover Card had to pay for a static search ad at the top of the engine. All the organic searches were for phishing sites."

According to the report, Internet pharmacy dailymedrx.com's advertisement on Bing doesn't go to dailymedrx.com, but instead to store.k2med.com, a rogue pharmacy that doesn't require a prescription for Viagra or other prescription drugs.

LegitScript first began studying Bing's sponsored search results for pharmacies in early 2008.

Bruen says search engine providers, such as Microsoft, need to better enforce verification of URLs, as well as whether pharmacies purchasing paid ads are licensed.

Have a comment on this story? Please click "Discuss" below. If you'd like to contact Dark Reading's editors directly, send us a message. Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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