Banks in Azerbaijan that have courted the shadowy trade in spam-advertised pharmaceuticals now have cornered the market for processing credit card payments for fake antivirus software, new data reveals.
In June, KrebsOnSecurity highlighted research from the University of California, San Diego (UCSD) showing that Azerigazbank, a financial institution in Azerbaijan, was the primary merchant bank for most major online-fraud pharmacy affiliate programs. By the time that research was published, those programs had moved their business to another bank in Azerbaijan, JSCB Bank Standard.
More than half of all sales at the world’s largest rogue Internet pharmacy in the last four years were charged to credit and debit cards issued by the top seven card-issuing banks, new research suggests.
Unlicensed pharmacies create public health risks and confuse consumers who are looking for safe and reliable prescription medicines. Rogue pharma Web sites are primarily advertised with the help of spam, malicious software, and hacked Web sites. Curbing this drug dealing activity would promote both public health and Internet users’ safety.
Recent findings highlight additional levers that policymakers could use to curb sales at rogue online pharmacies, by convincing the card-issuing banks to stop accepting these charges or by enacting legislation similar to that used to squelch online gambling operations.
An online criminal enterprise, as tightly structured as any legitimate business corporation, was exposed in 2010. Emails and documents stolen from employees of ChronoPay — Russia’s largest online payments processor — were shared with a select group of law enforcement agencies and with KrebsOnSecurity.com. The communications provide the strongest evidence yet that a notorious rogue online pharmacy and other shady enterprises are controlled by ChronoPay executives and employees.
The leaked ChronoPay email show that in August 2010 ChronoPay CEO Pavel Vrublevsky authorized a payment of 37,350 Russian Rubles (about $1,200) for a multi-user license of an Intranet service called MegaPlan. The documents indicate that Vrublevsky ordered the service to help manage the sprawling projects related to ChronoPay’s “black” operations, including the processing of payments for rogue anti-virus software, violent “rape” porn sites, and knockoff prescription drugs sold through hundreds of Web sites affiliated with a rogue online pharmacy program called Rx-Promotion.com.
ChronoPay employees were assigned MegaPlan accounts to track payment processing issues, order volumes and advertising partnerships for these black programs. In a move straight out of the Quentin Tarantino film Reservoir Dogs, the employees adopted nicknames like “Mr. Kink, Mr. Heppner,” and “Ms. Nati.” MegaPlan offers an application that makes it simple for clients to create organizational charts, and the account paid for by ChronoPay includes a chart showing the hierarchy and reporting structure of these divisions.