COVID-19 vaccines sold illegally on Darknet marketplaces

Google to provide 250,000 COVID-19 vaccines

While the world is struggling with the huge demands of COVID-19 vaccines, its illegal sale has been reported in the underground markets on the internet. Kaspersky researchers have exposed an illegal sale of COVID-19 vaccines on Darknet marketplaces.

Scammers and sellers on the dark market have been eager to take advantage of the high demand for vaccines. They want to earn profits from illegal sale and scams.

Darknet market is a commercial website on the internet using overlay technology within the internet. Such market operates through Tor (open-source software for anonymous communication or I2P (the Invisible Internet Project -an anonymous network layer for peer to peer communication).

In simple words, these are underground black markets on the internet. Cybercriminals and hacker groups run these markets to sale and trade all kind of illegal items and things including data.

Kaspersky researchers have examined 15 different marketplaces on the Darknet. They found advertisements for three major COVID-19 vaccines : Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca, and Moderna. There were also sellers advertising unverified “COVID19” vaccines.

Dark web marketplace postings selling doses of the Moderna and Pfizer vaccines

The majority of sellers are from France, Germany, the UK and the US. The prices per dose ranged from $250 to $1,200, with an average cost of about $500.

To sell these doses scammers communicate using encrypted messaging apps like Wickr and Telegram apps. They demand payments in the form of cryptocurrency, primarily bitcoin.

The majority of these underground sellers have made between 100-500 transactions. Indicating that they’ve been selling but what exactly Darknet users are purchasing remains unclear.

While Kaspersky experts have gained information and exposed the on-going illegal activities, they say it’s hard to verify those doses or online advertisements.

Many of the vaccine doses are being advertised online, however, it remains to be seen which one is actually real or not. Because many medical facilities have found themselves with leftover doses. Likewise, how many ads are actually selling real dose or scamming people remains unclear.

Even if the user did receive something in the mail. Most likely what’s been sent may not be an effective and valid dose. More importantly, obtaining such doses is illegal.

“You can find just about anything on the Darknet. So it’s not surprising sellers there would attempt to capitalize on the vaccination campaign. Over the past year, there have been a whole host of scams exploiting the COVID topic. And many of them have been successful,” said Dmitry Galov, Security expert – Kaspersky.

“Right now, not only are people selling vaccine doses, but they’re also selling vaccination records—pieces of paper that can help you travel freely. It’s important for users to be cautious of any “deal” related to the pandemic. Of course, it’s never a good idea to buy a vaccine of the Darknet,” added Galov.

To stay safe from scammers at the time of COVID, Kaspersky experts have shared some recommendation. They advised people never to buy products—including vaccine doses—on the Darknet.

Users need to see and read any COVID related advertisement very carefully. They should carefully look at the URLs or the website name. Particularly check, if the usual domain .com has been replaced with .com.tk or something along those lines.

That’s a quick hint that its a phishing site and one should never enter personal information on such a site. Users need to pay attention to grammar and layout on both sites they visit and the emails they receive.

(Image source – Kaspersky)

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