With several countries now approving the use of Pfizer-BioNTech’s Covid-19 vaccine, cybercriminals have sensed an opportunity to lure people into buying fake remedies on the dark web, said a report from cybersecurity firm Check Point.
Researchers at Check Point said they have found a stream of posts on the darknet from sources claiming to have a range of “coronavirus vaccines” or “coronavirus remedies” for sale.
Picture by Caspar Camille Rubin for Unsplash
The range of medicines advertised by these vendors is extensive, with one vendor even showing vaccine availability for $250 (R3750), said the report.
However, the researchers warned that the remedies advertised on the dark web are likely to be fake.
“All of the vendors we found insist on payment in bitcoin, as it minimises the chance of them being traced, casting further doubt on the authenticity of the medicines they are selling,” Check Point said in a blog post.
In communications with one vendor, they offered to sell an unspecified Covid-19 vaccine for 0.01 BTC (around R2880), and claimed that 14 doses were required.
This advice contradicts official announcements which state that some Covid vaccines require two shots, given 3 weeks apart, per person.
In this example, the seller claimed to have stocks of a leading vaccine producers newly-approved vaccine available for sale and delivery from the UK, US and Spain.
Another vendor on the dark web was found offering chloroquine as a regular coronavirus “treatment”, for only $10 with the claim that “Hydroxychloroquine, a medicine for malaria that has been touted as a treatment for coronavirus.”
This follows statements from US President Donald Trump who touted the use of hydroxychloroquine to ward off coronavirus, in contradiction to the advice from his own public health officials.
Check Point researchers also warned that positive news about vaccine trials in November and imminent availability also led to a surge in new web domains that relate to Covid-19 or vaccines being registered.
“Our data shows that since the beginning of November there were 1,062 new domains which contain the word ‘vaccine’ that were registered, out of which 400 also contain ‘covid’ or ‘corona’. Six of these sites were found to be ‘suspicious’,” Check Point said.