Businessmen are trying to profit from the coronavirus pandemic by selling COVID-19 vaccines and fake test certificates on the darknet. AstraZeneca’s vaccines, Russia’s Sputnik V, China’s Sinopharm and Johnson’s vaccine will be on offer Johnson, as found by researchers at cybersecurity firm Check Point. As reported by the BBC on Tuesday, additional fake test certificates and vaccination passes were offered.
Vaccine business on the darknet
The authenticity of vaccines offered on the darknet could not be verified, according to the BBC. Prices vary depending on the vaccine between 500 US dollars and 750 US dollars, about 419 euros to 629 euros. The vaccine from AstraZeneca is said to be the cheapest available. It costs 500 dollars, the vaccine from Johnson Johnson and Sputnik are available for 600 dollars, Sinopharm from China for 750 dollars. Some suppliers offer discounts or two doses for the price of one. Next-day delivery in the U.S. Express delivery is available worldwide. It is unclear whether there will be any delivery at all. During a test purchase, security researchers likely fell for a scammer who failed to deliver within the promised timeframe.
Check Point cybersecurity researchers have been monitoring the goings-on in the darknet since January. This is when the first advertisements for vaccines appeared – in Cyrillic script and in English. Since then the number of ads had more than tripled to 1200.
Fake vaccination passports
Fake vaccination certificates and test certificates are being offered for around $150 by traders who appear to be from the US, Spain, Germany, France and Russia, according to the BBC report. Vaccination passports certifying Corona vaccination to cost at least $150. This requires the purchaser to submit his or her name to the seller, as Check Point security researchers learned from a vendor.
Oded Vanunu, head of Check Point’s investigative group, strongly advises against purchasing vaccines or fake vaccine passports on the darknet: "It is important for people to understand that trying to obtain a vaccine, a vaccination certificate or a negative COVID-19 test result by unofficial means is extremely risky, as hackers are more interested in their money, data and identity for exploitation purposes." Falsified vaccines also pose health risk.
Check Point therefore sees seamless vaccine documentation across all countries in the form of QR codes as essential to better prevent falsification.
Back in November 2020, European police agency Europol warned of fraud involving fake Corona vaccines and possible negative health consequences, MDR reported. Even at this early stage, Europol warned that organized crime would exploit the crisis to sell fake vaccines online.