Hackers target college websites to sell fake drugs

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. - Drug dealers around the world are targeting colleges and universities to do their dirty work and sometimes the victimized schools don't even know it.

Our news gathering partners at PIX11 found hackers are hijacking school websites to sell counterfeit drugs.

At Rook Security in downtown Indianapolis, Tom Gorup and his team monitor security for their clients' websites. Gorup said hackers can stay hidden if they avoid attention.

"They're sitting on a website but they're sitting a couple directories deep and the administrator never goes there so they don't know it's there," said Gorup. "They surf to their website, everything looks fine, however, you know, a couple slashes in is this special directory that's housing special code for someone to do something like this."

Before you know it, a legitimate college website isn't just welcoming students back to school, it's also selling counterfeit drugs.

Both WPIX and our newsroom found schools being abused right now.

We even found links to Purdue University's Engineering School when searching for cheap Adderall. However, it appears the link has been taken down.purdue_search_results

We contacted Purdue about it. Senior Strategist for STEM Steve Tally told us, "These types of problems happen with all
websites, and we move to shut them down as quickly as possible. Beyond that, we don’t comment on our security procedures so that we don’t give any additional information to people who try to disrupt our webpages or systems."

Butler University is also on the lookout for hackers trying hijack its website.

"We just have a number of security controls we've put in place. A number of things that we do from time to time," said Eric Schmidt, Butler University's Chief Information Security Officer. "I can't get into a lot of details, but yeah, we pay attention. We're aware."

So why are hackers choosing to target college websites? Experts say those sites usually rank higher in online searches and hackers know some schools are easy targets.

"Typically colleges are leveraging their students to monitor their networks so they're inexperienced, they haven't seen these types of things, and they're being overwhelmed by the number of alerts they're seeing on a day-to-day basis," said Gorup.

The payout for these hackers is huge. According to INTERPOL, one network running fake online pharmacies cashed in on $55 million in just two years.

Unfortunately, buyers can suffer big time. The pills they receive may not even contain the right ingredients and could pose serious health risks.

The World Health Organization estimates as many as one million people die each year from using counterfeit drugs, which is why the tech war behind the screen is so important.

"The internet, it's more of a Wild, Wild West at this point," said Group.