As the coronavirus (COVID-19) has become the world's top priority, criminals have started to adjust as well by counterfeiting surgical masks to manufacturing fake coronavirus 'cures.' The lowlifes that are exploiting this pandemic have now become the target of global law enforcement operations.
The global law enforcement operations regarding the matter
According to Catherine De Bolle, executive director for the Europol, the public should not buy medicines online that claim that they are the cure to the coronavirus. In a tweet by the executive director, it was explained that the medicines are not only fake but they are also dangerous!
Catherine De Bolle, Executive Director of Europol: "Criminals abuse fears around the pandemic by selling medicines online which claim to cure the coronavirus. Not only are these medicines fake, but dangerous too. Don't buy them!" #COVID19 pic.twitter.com/fuDBIlaXci — Europol (@Europol) March 23, 2020
This warning comes shortly after the announcement of Europol's success with Operation Pangea, a global law enforcement operation, operating in 90 countries that were coordinated by none other than INTERPOL. According to the acting INTERPOL secretary-general, Mr. Jurgen Stock, "Operation Pangea shows that criminals will stop at nothing to make a profit,"
Operation Pangea has specifically targeted criminal groups that are involved in trafficking as well as the production of these counterfeit medicines. The growing panic over the coronavirus pandemic has become a criminal's biggest business opportunity, and according to Stock, "The illicit trade in such counterfeit medical items during a public health crisis shows their total disregard for people's well-being or their lives."
From Mar. 3 to 10, the operating law enforcement officers were able to catch 34,000 counterfeit surgical masks, bringing them out of circulation. According to Europol, these were being commonly sold as a medical product across about 2,000 links to sites that are selling fake COVID-19 products.
About 4.4 million units of certain illicit pharmaceuticals were recently seized, and the situation was described by Europol as a "worrying increase in unauthorized antiviral medicines and the antimalarial chloroquine," as well as supposed immune-boosting drugs.
The Europol reports regarding the statistics for Operation Pangea can be found on Europol's website.
The result of operations made by Operation Pangea has 121 arrests, as well as $14 million in potentially dangerous drugs, were seized. According to Europol, the success of their operations has led to the dismantling of 37 organized crime groups, which includes the action taken by the United States Department of Justice, which happened over the weekend to take down a specific site that sells a coronavirus vaccine kit that does not exist.
The fight against the coronavirus has taken a cyber-form
The battle against the coronavirus also includes the battle against false information as well as the spreading of fake cures through the internet, which potentially may cause even more damage to people rather than actually help them.
Fake news has caused turmoil in the economic sector as the hoarding, and unmannerly behavior of some people were attributed to what the media had to say about the ongoing pandemic.
So far, Operation Pangea has a force of about 3,000 cybersecurity professionals who are committed to helping the hospitals and healthcare facilities fight against the COVID-19 in any way possible.