BALTIMORE (AP) — Authorities have seized two domain names posing as biotechnology companies developing COVID-19 treatments but are apparently collecting personal information for fraud and installing malware, the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Baltimore said Friday.
An investigation was launched by Homeland Security Investigations earlier this month after corporate security for a company identified in an affidavit as Moderna, Inc., in Cambridge, Massachusetts, located the fake website and contacted authorities, U.S. Attorney Robert K. Hur said in a news release. Moderna has developed a COVID-19 vaccine awaiting approval by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.
Hur said a review of the website’s online content showed the name and trademarked logos for the biotechnology company and found no significant differences from the genuine page, other than misspelling the company's name. But Hur said people clicking on the “Contact Us” tab were redirected to an entry form requesting name, company/institution, title, phone, e-mail, and comments/questions. The name was registered around Dec. 8 to a company headquartered in Malaysia, according to Hur.
Like the first website, investigators found the second page was similar to that of a company identified in another affidavit as Regeneron Pharmaceuticals in Westchester County, New York, which was granted emergency use authorization by the FDA for an antibody cocktail used to treat COVID-19 in high-risk patients with mild to moderate cases of the virus, Hur said.
The investigation also showed that Regeneron's subject domain name was registered Dec. 6 by someone living in Nigeria.
People who visit the fake sites will now see a message saying they have been seized by the federal government and redirects them to another site for more information.