Tired of waiting to get your appointment for the vaccine? For just $ 500, you could get a dose of COVID-19 vaccine tomorrow (overnight shipping not included). Too rich for your blood? How about a vaccination card for only $ 150?
Security researchers have seen an increase in ads on dark web markets in recent weeks. The sites advertise everything from vaccine doses to fake vaccine certifications and negative test results. Currently, more than 1,200 advertisements offer a variety of vaccines, including Pfizer, Moderna, Johnson & Johnson, AstraZeneca, Sputnik and Sinopharm.
Investigations by researchers at security firm Check Point have been monitoring sites for Covid-19-related activity since January, and they report a threefold increase in this activity over the past three months. It is not known whether the doses are legitimate, and even if they were, there is no guarantee that the vials were stored at the correct temperature, making them potentially unnecessary.
Last week, Israel-based Check Point researchers attempted to purchase the Sinopharm vaccine from a supplier, said Ekram Ahmed, a spokesperson for the company. “We tried to negotiate and buy the Chinese vaccine through one of the vendors,” he told Ars. The team sent a message to the supplier, who asked them to continue negotiations on Telegram. Once there, the seller assured that the vaccine doses were legitimate. The researchers sent $ 500 to a Bitcoin wallet, and although they received a FedEx shipping label, they have not yet received the shipment.
Dark web vendors are probably getting better deals selling spoofed vaccine cards and negative test results. “Lately we are seeing more vaccination certificates being offered” than vaccines, Ahmed said. “It’s probably a two-to-one ratio.”
With COVID-19 testing growing in popularity, the price of negative test results is as low as $ 25. Vaccination cards are harder to find and sell for more, around $ 200. These certificates become like passports, allowing people a freedom of movement that they have not enjoyed for months. The European Union is creating a “digital green certificate” which it hopes to deploy by June to allow its citizens and residents to cross borders. In the United States, proof of vaccination could allow people access to certain places, and employers can require their employees to return to the workplace.
The researchers alerted Europol to the list and are contacting others today.
Ahmed, a spokesperson for Check Point, said the sellers they approached in dark web markets hope to build long-term relationships with their customers. The target market, he said, “are people on the ground, people looking to expand and sell locally in bulk.”
This story originally appeared on Ars Technica.
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