Authorities have seized two domain names posing as biotechnology companies developing COVID-19 treatments, but apparently collecting personal information for fraud and installing malware, the US prosecutor in Baltimore said Friday.
An investigation was opened by Homeland Security Investigations earlier this month after corporate security found the bogus website and contacted authorities for a company identified in an affidavit as Moderna, Inc. of Cambridge, Massachusetts, according to US Attorney Robert K. Hur in a release notice. Moderna has developed a COVID-19 vaccine that has yet to be approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Hur said a review of the website’s online content found the biotech company’s name and brand logos and found no significant differences from the original page other than misspelling the company’s name. According to Hur, people who clicked the Contact Us tab were directed to a registration form that asked for their name, company / institution, title, phone, email, and comments / questions. The name was registered with a company headquartered in Malaysia around December 8, according to Hur.
As on the first website, investigators found that the second page resembled that of a company identified in a separate affidavit as Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in Westchester County, New York, and FDA approved emergency use for an antibody cocktail for treatment of COVID-19 in high-risk patients with mild to moderate cases of the virus, Hur said.
The investigation also found that Regeneron’s domain name was registered on December 6th by someone who lives in Nigeria.
People who visit the fake websites will now see a message that they have been seized by the federal government and will redirect them to another website for more information.