Thursday Dec 03 2020

Interpol warns of 'organised crime threat' to coronavirus vaccine via Orange Notice

A man passes Interpol signages at Interpol World in Singapore July 2, 2019. REUTERS/Edgar Su/Files

KARACHI/LYON: The International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) on Thursday issued an 'Orange Notice,' warning the world about a threat of organised crime to coronavirus vaccines.

The statement from the global law enforcement agency came as various pharmaceutical companies prepare to launch their COVID-19 drugs. The Orange Notices were issued to 194 countries, including Pakistan.

In the notice, the receipt of which was confirmed to Geo News by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA), Interpol has warned against possible counterfeiting, theft, and illegal advertisements of the coronavirus vaccine.

The global police organisation warned that criminal groups could disrupt the vaccine supply chain and certain elements had become active — a threat that exists online and in general — representing a serious threat to public safety.

Many countries are getting closer to vaccinating the public and, as the respective governments prepare to administer the coronavirus drug, criminal elements had become more active, according to the Interpol's notice.

It outlined "potential criminal activity in relation to the falsification, theft and illegal advertising of COVID-19 and flu vaccines, with the pandemic having already triggered unprecedented opportunistic and predatory criminal behaviour".

"Criminal organizations are planning to infiltrate or disrupt supply chains," Interpol Secretary General Jürgen Stock said in this regard.

“Criminal networks will also be targeting unsuspecting members of the public via fake websites and false cures, which could pose a significant risk to their health, even their lives," Stock added.

Numerous vaccines were close to final approval and global distribution and, in such an environment, it was crucial to to ensure the safety of the vaccines' supply chain and identify illicit websites that may deal counterfeit drugs or cures.

Coordination between law enforcement and the health sector is essential in order to stop the threats from materialising, it stressed. Furthermore, the gradual resumption of international travel translated into higher importance being attached to testing, which may result "in a parallel production and distribution of unauthorized and falsified testing kit".

The Interpol's Orange Notice also stated that a cybercrime analysis revealed nearly 3,000 websites that were linked to online pharmacies and that were suspected of being involved in the sales of illegal drugs and medical devices.

It also disclosed found "around 1,700 contained cyber threats, especially phishing and spamming malware".