I’ve written before about the prevalence of counterfeit drugs at Internet-based pharmacies and how critical it is when shopping online to be cautious about where you buy your medications.
A new study from Carnegie Mellon University further drives home that point. Researchers found that approximately one in three searches for online drug information is redirected to people illegally selling prescription drugs.
Hacking Reputable Sites
Here’s how it works: Hackers insert code into legitimate websites with trusted URLs, such as those from university or government sources. Once a person conducting the online search clicks on the link, they unknowingly visit a series of websites leading to a fake pharmacy without ever spending time at the original site appearing in the search results.
According to the study:
“Legitimate pharmacies and health resources have been largely crowded out by search-redirection attacks and blog spam. Infections persist longest on websites with high PageRank and from.edu domains.”
Researchers conducted online searches for information about prescription drugs over the course of six months, and found that 32% of websites contained malicious code.
What’s more, the drugs purchased on these sites are dangerous. According to the study:
“… independent testing has indeed revealed that the drugs often include the active ingredient, but in incorrect and potentially dangerous dosages.”
Here’s an obvious but important tip: Avoid being led astray when purchasing medications online by purchasing only from pharmacy websites you know.
The FDA recommends that people only purchase from pharmacies accredited by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.
Of course, you could also go old school and pick up your prescriptions at your local drugstore.
Got a health insurance question? Post it below. I’ll respond in this blog each Thursday to as many of your questions as I can.
Proceedings of the 20th USENIX Security Symposium, August 2011, San Francisco.
National Association of Boards of Pharmacy.