Warnings Issued About Fake Ebola Treatments, Malware Scams

October 27, 2014 in News

FDA has sent three firms warning letters urging them to cease making false claims online about treatments or cures for Ebola, NPR’s “Shots” reports (Silverman, “Shots,” NPR, 10/23).

This year’s Ebola outbreak is the largest and longest ever recorded for the disease (iHealthBeat, 10/8). According to CDC and World Health Organization, more than 10,114 individuals have been infected with the disease in West Africa since the outbreak began, resulting in at least 4,900 deaths. In the U.S., four cases have been confirmed, including one patient death (CDC data, 10/25).

According to “Shots,” companies have been marketing products online as potential Ebola treatments or cures, but FDA has not approved any products for such purposes. The products include:

  • Clove oil;
  • Oregano;
  • Snake venom; and
  • Vitamin C.

According to federal health officials, New Jersey-based Natural Solutions Foundation — which received one of the three FDA letters — was touting its product Nano Silver as a treatment for Ebola and has falsely claimed on its website, Facebook and Twitter that Ebola has a cure.

In the letters, FDA threatened to potentially seize company property or pursue criminal prosecution if the firms do not stop making the false claims.

Gary Coody, FDA’s national health fraud coordinator, said that such claims are particularly harmful, as they could result in individuals delaying needed care or having a false sense of immunity from the virus. FDA is urging consumers to report any such claims to the agency.

Ralph Fucetola of Natural Solutions Foundation said that the company “understand[s] that there is no approved treatment for Ebola” and “[is] in the middle of negotiating with the government with regard to how we can best describe” the company’s product (“Shots,” NPR, 10/23).

Rise in Ebola-Related Phishing Scams and Malware Campaigns

In related news, the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team earlier this month released a warning to consumers about potential phishing scams and malware campaigns designed to look like Ebola updates, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 10/24).

According to the Post-Intelligencer, hackers have been sending Trojan viruses in attachments of emails related to Ebola, some of which are designed to appear as memos from the Mexican government or WHO.

Cybersecurity company Trustwave said users who download the documents could cause their computer to become infected with a Trojan virus that enables hackers to:

  • Take photos via users’ webcams;
  • Steal passwords;
  • Record sounds; and
  • Upload files.

In the warning, the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team urged individuals not to “follow unsolicited Web links or attachments in email messages” and to make sure they have updated antivirus software (US-CERT warning, 10/16).

In addition, WHO communications officer Donna Eberwine-Villagran said, “WHO has not sent any emails like this to anyone,” adding, “We do send messages with attachments, of course, but never of this sort and never unsolicited or to the general public” (Seattle Post-Intelligencer, 10/24).

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