The U.S. Food and Drug Administration recently announced that it has shut down 1,677 websites as part of its 6th annual International Internet Week of Action (IIWA).
The crack down, called Operation Pangea VI, targeted many of the infamous “Canadian Pharmacy” sites, know for promoting themselves through huge spam campaigns orchestrated by some of the world’s largest botnets and was a joint effort between 99 countries. Most of those sites are thought to be owned by an organized crime network. Some of the sites shutdown pretended to be affiliated with popular U.S. pharmacy chains Walgreens and CVS through brandjacking and carefully crafted domain names meant to trick visitors into thinking they were legit.
“Illegal online pharmacies put American consumers’ health at risk by selling potentially dangerous products. This is an ongoing battle in the United States and abroad, and the FDA will continue its criminal law enforcement and regulatory efforts,” said John Roth, director of the FDA’s Office of Criminal Investigations. “The agency is pleased to participate in Operation Pangea to protect consumers and strengthen relationships with international partners who join in this fight.”
Some of the fake and illegal pharmacy sites stole customer credit card info, pushed malware, and committed identity theft, while many others actually shipped customers the drugs they’d ordered. However those drugs were unapproved and likely counterfeit, made in countries like India and China where there is little to no regulation and could have potentially dangerous filler materials in them. Over $41 million worth of these fake drugs were seized during the crackdown. While there have been no reports of anyone becoming ill as a result of taking such drugs, it’s highly unlikely anyone sickened would report it due to both the embarrassment of having to admit to purchasing fake drugs off the Internet and the fact that buying such drugs without a prescription is illegal.