The US Department of Justice has seized a fifth domain name used to impersonate the official site of a biotechnology company involved in COVID-19 vaccine development.
The seized domain claimed to sell the REGEN-COV2 emergency antibody-drug cocktail developed by Regeneron Pharmaceuticals and approved by the US Food and Drug Administration for emergency COVID-19 treatment in November 2020.
“However, the website was fraudulent and instead appears to have been used to collect the personal information of individuals visiting the site, in order to use the information for nefarious purposes, including fraud, phishing attacks, and/or deployment of malware,” the Justice Department said.
“Individuals visiting the site now will see a message that the site has been seized by the federal government and be redirected to another site for additional information.”
The US Attorney’s Office for the District of Maryland seized the usaregenermedicals[.]com — registered on January 21 using the NameCheap registrar — after an HSI Cyber Operations Officer discovered its malicious nature.
Four other phishing domains seized in recent months
Since December 2020, the US Department of Justice seized four other domains used by fraudsters for various nefarious purposes, including fraud, phishing attacks, and/or infecting targets’ computers with malware.
Similar actions lead to domain seizures of:
remdesivirmx[.]com : Seized on March 1, 2021, for collecting the personal information of individuals who wanted to buy the Remdesivir antiviral drug.
: Seized on March 1, 2021, for collecting the personal information of individuals who wanted to buy the Remdesivir antiviral drug. modernatx[.]shop : Seized on January 15, 2021, for claiming to sell purported COVID-19 vaccines (impersonated the official site of biotechnology company Moderna)
: Seized on January 15, 2021, for claiming to sell purported COVID-19 vaccines (impersonated the official site of biotechnology company Moderna) mordernatx[.]com and regeneronmedicals[.]com: Seized on December 18, 2020, for collecting the personal info of individuals visiting the sites. (impersonated the sites of biotechnology companies Moderna and Regeneron)
“The seizure of these five sites by the government has prevented third parties from acquiring the names and using them to commit additional crimes, as well as prevented third parties from continuing to access the fraudulent sites in their present form,” the DoJ added.
“The Federal government is providing the vaccine free of charge to people living in the United States. We will continue to aggressively prosecute these fraudsters who seek to prey on unsuspecting residents and their families,” Acting US Attorney Jonathan F. Lenzner said.
Over $365 million lost to COVID-19-related fraud
According to stats provided by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC), more than 372,000 Americans reported financial losses of more than $365 million following COVID-19-related scams since the start of 2020, according to stats provided by the US Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Threat actors have also targeted orgs associated with COVID-19 vaccine research and involved in the COVID-19 vaccine cold chain.
Chinese-sponsored hacking groups coordinated attacks targeting vaccine research orgs according to a joint public service announcement issued by the FBI and DHS-CISA.
The Russian-backed APT29 hacking group has also targeted Canadian, UK, and US vaccine research organizations with the end goal of harvesting intellectual property related to vaccine testing and development.
Last but not least, Microsoft took down domains used in COVID-19-related cybercrime, such as harvesting sensitive information, later to be used in Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks.