COVID-19 vaccines for sale on dark web - study

Davinci Maru, ABS-CBN News

Posted at Mar 11 2021 03:33 PM

MANILA - With doses in short supply, sellers on the so-called dark web are peddling COVID-19 shots for frustrated vaccine seekers, according to cyber security company Kaspersky.

Anti-coronavirus jabs developed by Pfizer, Moderna and AstraZeneca are being sold on the darknet for $250 to $1,200 (P12,000 to P58,000), the Moscow-based firm said in a blog.

The anonymous sellers are also advertising unverified vaccines, it added. Payments are mostly made through cryptocurrency bitcoin, which makes it harder for authorities to track transactions.

An analysis of 15 marketplaces showed that majority of the sellers came from France, Germany, the UK and US, Kaspersky said. They used encrypted messaging apps such as Wickr and Telegram.

Kaspersky researchers found that many of the sellers had conducted 100 to 500 such transactions.

However, it noted that the vaccines being sold could be a scam.

"It’s not inconceivable that someone working at these facilities could pocket the extra doses and connect with dark web intermediaries to sell them," Kaspersky said.

"At the same time, a little bottle from a shady dealer on some anonymous forum in a dark corner of the Web can contain just about anything -- from a harmless saline solution to something really dangerous," it added.

Kaspersky also said the vaccines may no longer be effective by the time they reach the buyers.

For example, the Pfizer vaccine requires ultra-cold storage requirements, it said. There's also no way of knowing the vaccine is stored appropriately. 

Aside from COVID-19 vaccines, fake vaccination certificates are also being sold on the dark web, the company said.

The vaccination certificates, which cost $20 to $25 (P970 to P1,200), mostly come from European countries.

Kaspersky said dark web users in Russia could also purchase negative COVID-19 certificates, which go for $50 to $70 (P2,400 to P3,400).

"Of course, dark net shopping is risky business, and it’s clear from the past year that scammers have been all too eager to profit off the current crisis," it said.

Kaspersky added, "The bottom line? Wait for your turn to receive a real vaccine the right way."

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