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22 Mar 2007

Fake website peddles killer pills

Marcia Bergeron died after taking pills she had bought online
Marcia Bergeron died after taking pills she had bought online.

IT security and control firm Sophos is warning computer users of the dangers of buying pills from online sites following the death of a 57-year old Canadian woman.

According to reports in Canadian newspapers, Marcia Bergeron died of poisoning after taking pills labeled as anti-anxiety medication and sedatives purchased from an internet site that used fake endorsements from medical agencies. The coroner's report revealed that the pills were laced with dangerous traces of uranium, strontium, selnium, aluminium, barium and boron. Sophos's Security Threat Report 2007 revealed that almost 60 percent of all spam sent across the internet is related to drugs and medication.

"This is a tragic reminder that you should always consult a doctor and never purchase pills online or reply to emails that offer miracle cures at knocked-down prices," said Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant at Sophos. "Self-prescription can not only result in you buying medication that you don't need, but more worryingly there's no guarantee that the pills won't be just a cheap concoction of whatever minerals the sellers can get their hands on, designed for the sole purpose of earning them money. It's madness to buy drugs from an unknown source - who knows what's in it?"

Sophos experts warn that fake online sites, such as the one Bergeron bought her medication from, are growing in number. They are set up by cybercriminals who often send out spam emails directing unwary users to the site. They then operate for just a couple of days before they are shut down to avoid detection by the authorities. This way spammers can peddle their drugs without being caught, only to set up another site under a different name a few days later.

"Medical spam is a serious problem, not only clogging up networks with unwanted messages, but putting lives at risk. All computer users need to display common sense when it comes to opening and responding to unsolicited messages - if what's being offered seems too good to be true, then it probably is," concluded Cluley.

Sophos recommends companies protect themselves with a consolidated solution which can defend against the threats of spam, spyware and viruses.

About Sophos

More than 100 million users in 150 countries rely on Sophos as the best protection against complex threats and data loss. Sophos is committed to providing complete security solutions that are simple to deploy, manage, and use and that deliver the industry's lowest total cost of ownership. Sophos offers award-winning encryption, endpoint security, web, email, mobile and network security solutions backed by SophosLabs - a global network of threat intelligence centers.

Sophos is headquartered in Boston, US and Oxford, UK. More information is available at www.sophos.com.