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.
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 store.k2med.com 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 Bing.com'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 Bing.com's online advertising program," the LegitScript blog entry added.