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Study: Illegal Online Pharmacies Can Manipulate Searches

Study: Illegal Online Pharmacies Can Manipulate Searches [the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review]

From Pittsburgh Tribune-Review (PA) (August 12, 2011)

Aug. 12--Illegal online pharmacies are manipulating Internet searches to send consumers to their sites, a recent study by researchers from Carnegie Mellon University and Harvard found.

The study looked at the top search results for 218 drug-related queries over nine months in 2010 and 2011. Researchers found one-third of the searches sent consumers to seemingly legitimate websites that hackers had infected to redirect them to illegal online pharmacies.

Nicolas Christin, a CMU cybersecurity researcher and one of the report's authors said the research underscores the danger of seeking prescription drugs online.

"It's like playing Russian roulette. Most of the time you'll get something. You may get what you want, but it may be in the wrong dose. Or it may be something totally different. And sometimes you get nothing at all.

"If you want to buy online, go directly to a site for a pharmacy you know like CVS or Rite Aid or Walmart. Do not "Google" for these things," Christin said.

Nils Frederiksen, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office, said illegal online pharmacies pose a major problem for law enforcement agencies. He said some put legitimate prescription drugs into the hands of those who abuse them, while others may be selling counterfeit drugs that could endanger consumers.

Still others may be selling buyers' credit card information to identity thieves, he said.


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Posted: August 2011