Fake Press Releases Continue to Cause Problems for News Wires

Just last week, General Mills was affected by a fake press release issued on PRNewswire that said, “Obama Orders Full Investigation of General Mills Supply Chain Following Food Recalls.”

This past Friday, another fake release hit the wires from Business Wire, purporting to be from Javelin Pharmaceuticals, with the headline, “US Supreme Court split – rules in favor of Big Pharma.”

The release was issued after 11p.m. eastern time on Friday evening and was retracted at 7:45a.m. eastern time by Business Wire.

Business Wire SVP, marketing Thomas Becktold told PRNewser in a statement today:

On Friday evening, June 18, Business Wire transmitted a press release for Javelin Pharmaceuticals that we have since learned was fraudulent. The release was not issued or authorized by Javelin Pharmaceuticals. This is a case of stolen identity and is being treated as a criminal investigation

While overall they are a rare occurrence, the recent flow of fake press releases hit at one of the core value propositions the major wire services use when pitching themselves against cheaper or free competitors: trust.

The major services have large, in-house editorial teams who are in place to detect fake or fraudulent information.

UPDATE: After the jump, we’ve posted a release just issued from Business Wire, which states the company will no longer distribute press releases submitted by email.

Business Wire Comments on Hoax News Release and Announces Security Upgrades, Operational Changes

E-Mailed Releases Will No Longer Be Accepted, Effective Immediately, As Business Wire Accelerates Timing of Long-Planned System Upgrades

NEW YORK–(BUSINESS WIRE)– In the wake of a fraudulent press release that is now the subject of a Federal criminal investigation, Business Wire will no longer accept client releases submitted via e-mail, effective immediately, Cathy Baron Tamraz, chief executive officer, announced today. The elimination of e-mail was scheduled to be part of a planned security upgrade this August, but this weekend’s incident advanced the timetable for the policy change.

All press releases must now be submitted via “BW Connect,” Business Wire’s proprietary order-entry system, which is audited on an annual basis by leading independent network security specialists. BW Connect has been operational since 1998 without any breaches or incidents. The long-planned security upgrade will introduce additional safeguards to the system’s multiple security layers. The system is subject to rigorous testing annually as part of the regulatory compliance sanctioning process in multiple international jurisdictions, as well as routine corporate audits.

“Business Wire on rare occasions accepted e-mails as an accommodation to clients,” Tamraz said in explaining the policy change. “Based on this weekend’s events, we have put an immediate end to this practice. Business Wire will only transmit releases that have been submitted via authorized users of BW Connect who file directly into Business Wire’s editorial system using its secure, proprietary platform.”

On June 18, Business Wire transmitted a press release for Javelin Pharmaceuticals that it since learned was fraudulent. The release was not issued or authorized by Javelin Pharmaceuticals. There is currently a criminal investigation underway in what appears to be a case of stolen identity and fraud.

Business Wire transmits more than 250,000 press releases annually; fortunately, such incidents have been extremely rare in the company’s near 50-year history.

“We are continuously upgrading our security systems, and we pride ourselves on our track record,” noted Tamraz. “We will continue to be extremely vigilant and provide the level of service our clients and media partners have come to expect from us.”