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News

Computer forensics provides evidence of counterfeit drugs

Detica Forensics : 18 September, 2007  (Application Story)
Metadata analysis and document reconstruction amongst the techniques used to gather hard evidence against medicine counterfeiters
Detica Forensics investigators have provided incriminating evidence in one
of the biggest counterfeit medicines conspiracies in British history.

As part of an investigation by the UK's Medicines and Healthcare products
Regulatory Agency (MHRA), the Detica team reconstructed emails and other
documents and analysed metadata in files to produce evidence for the courts
that helped lead to the convictions of the man who masterminded the British
arm of the conspiracy, and three of his cohorts.

The case has been described by the MHRA as the largest of its kind ever
heard by a British criminal court.

The multi-million pound scam involved selling counterfeit tablets of Viagra,
Cialis (both for erectile dysfunction) and Propecia (for treating baldness),
containing only 90% of the normal active ingredient, to unsuspecting
customers - many buying on-line - for up to £20 each, having often been
acquired by the vendors for as little as 50 US cents. Tens of thousands of
the fake tablets, manufactured in illicit factories in China, Pakistan and
Asia, were bought in the UK, America, the Bahamas and Mexico, involving
scores of businesses, both real and fake.

Andy Clark, head of Detica Forensics, said: "Our digital forensics linked
the man at the centre of the investigations with companies and individuals
implicated in the conspiracy. By piecing together fragments of emails and
other documents, our experts mapped a web of contacts and uncovered evidence
including a distribution agreement, a financial transaction and company
incorporation details of the company at the centre of the scam.

"By reconstructing documents and analysing hidden metadata in files, we
identified evidence such as document authors and key dates of editing and
modification. This evidence substantiated other intelligence gathered in the
case and helped secure the convictions that were announced this week."

David Porter, head of security and risk at Detica, added: "This is an
excellent example of the power of digital forensics investigations. It's not
often that we can talk publicly about the activities of Detica Forensics
because the issues we deal with are so sensitive. Cases are often resolved
even before they reach court because the digital evidence is so
incriminating."

Andy Clark continued: "This case demonstrates how digital forensics is
becoming an integral part of many criminal investigations. As digital
footprints become bigger, multi-dimensional and ubiquitous, and criminal
activities become increasingly intertwined and networked, it is not a
trivial matter for digital forensics investigators to keep pace with
fraudsters and illegal transactions."
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