Microsoft Bing Benefits from Ads for Illegal Online Pharmacies, Report Charges

A report criticizes Microsoft's handling of sponsored search results in its Bing search engine, some of which lead to illegal pharmacies, according to KnujOn and LegitScript. Nearly 90 percent of the sponsored pharmacy results lead to sites that engage in illegal activity, such as selling counterfeit medicine, the report says.

A report released Aug. 4 found that nearly 90 percent of Microsoft Bing's sponsored search results for prescription drugs and pharmacies lead to rogue operations.

The report, (PDF) authored by anti-spam outfit KnujOn and online pharmacy locator LegitScript, found that 89.7 percent of the pharmacies paying for ads on Microsoft's search engine are engaged in illegal activity.

Click here to read about rising abuse of Google and Yahoo by cyber-crooks.

Some of the pharmacies are linked to Russian and Eastern European organized crime syndicates and allow people to purchase prescription drugs without a prescription, according to the report. Other medications sold through the dubious pharmacies are counterfeit, the researchers said.

For its part, Microsoft says it has rules in place to deal with rogue pharmacies. The company requires online pharmacy advertisers to have PharmacyChecker certification. LegitScript certifies the legitimacy of online pharmacies as well.

"We take these claims very seriously and are currently investigating this issue," a Microsoft spokesperson said. "Microsoft's guidelines clearly require online pharmacies who advertise on Bing to adhere to U.S. laws."

Still, officials at LegitScript contended that the study shows companies are profiting from the illegal sale of medication with the appearance of Microsoft's approval.

"We identified serious security gaps in Microsoft's online advertising program, allowing a rogue Internet pharmacy like to advertise under the name of a domestic, U.S.-licensed pharmacy but redirect traffic to the no-prescription-required fake Website," said a company post on LegitScript's blog. "This happened in several cases, which is bad news for's advertisers."

"LegitScript and KnujOn are releasing this report in the hope that it will encourage Microsoft to discontinue allowing such Websites to participate in's online advertising program," the LegitScript blog entry added.