CYBER CRIME: Many Dark Web platforms are now selling so-called coronavirus vaccine vials at exorbitant prices
- Since November, crooks and dealers have been selling fake doses of coronavirus Covid-19 vaccines on the Dark Web.
- “Transactions are made in bitcoin on platforms, marketplaces (online market), a bit like eBay or Amazon”, explains Gérome Billois, a cybersecurity expert at Wavestone.
- “The doses can sell for between $ 150 and $ 1,000,” say researchers at Check Point, a computer security software company for businesses.
We knew that the Dark Web hosted all kinds of illegal transactions, sales of drugs, weapons or even counterfeits … Since November, taking advantage of the global race to deliver vaccines, but also of credulity and the impatience of some, the crooks and dealers are now selling alleged doses of coronavirus Covid-19 vaccines there, at exorbitant prices.
Alerted by these fraudulent transactions, Interpol’s cybercrime unit had already sent a warning message to its 194 member countries in December, calling on them to prepare for organized crime actions focused on vaccines against the coronavirus. In an orange safety alert notice, the international police cooperation organization based in Lyon had warned of “potential criminal activity linked to counterfeiting, theft and illegal promotion of vaccines against Covid-19″. Today, the threat has grown, and sites selling these fake vaccines have multiplied.
Vials of vaccine sold for over $ 1,000
Researchers at Check Point, a business computer security software company, recently discovered numerous “advertisements” on the Darkweb for vaccines stamped with Pfizer. “Many people today don’t want to wait to get protection through their country’s official health channels, and there are still vendors on the Dark Web who claim they can meet the needs of these people,” says Check Point. . Doses offered online can sell for between $ 150 and $ 1,000, company researchers say.
The latter thus found on the Darknet a flow of messages from sources claiming to sell a whole range of “coronavirus vaccines” or “coronavirus remedies”. There are many sites that market these products, such as “A vaccine against the coronavirus available at $ 250”, “Say goodbye to Covid-19” or “Buy quickly. The coronavirus vaccine is on sale now ”. To escape the surveillance of the authorities, the owners of these fraudulent sites only leave their pages online for one day, specify specialists from Check Point Research.
“There are a lot of fake vaccine scams on the Dark Web. It seems a little irrational when you know the logistical difficulties to store them, ”admits Gérome Billois, a cybersecurity expert at Wavestone. “Darknet transactions are successful business. It is a lucrative and profitable market. Given the current demand, some have therefore launched into the sale of fake vaccines, ”says the expert, who predicts the upcoming appearance of phishing campaigns(intended to collect banking or personal data) to sell us fake vaccines. “The general public is very likely going to receive a lot of scam emails trying to sell us the same thing very soon. We are even currently seeing false e-mails in India offering appointments to be vaccinated, ”explains Gérome Billois.
“EBay or Amazon” type marketplaces, where you have to pay in bitcoin
Selling on these sites is quite “traditional”. “Transactions are made on platforms, marketplaces (online market), a bit like eBay or Amazon, where there are several categories. Until now you could find drugs and a whole bunch of counterfeit drugs. Now you can find this brand new offer there. You just have to click to get in touch with the seller via a chat, and then agree on a price and a delivery address. It is ultimately a fairly “classic” sale, “explains the cybersecurity specialist . However, you are absolutely not sure what you are going to receive. According to Gérome Billois, “there is a 99.9% chance” of being scammed …
“All the sellers we have found insist on paying in bitcoin because it minimizes the chances of finding them, which casts further doubt on the authenticity of the drugs they sell”, further explain the researchers at Check Point. “In their communications with a buyer, crooks offered to sell an unspecified coronavirus Covid-19 vaccine for 0.01 bitcoin (about $ 300) and claimed that 14 doses were needed. An opinion which contradicts the official announcements which declare that certain vaccines against Covid-19 require two injections per person, administered three weeks apart, ”says Check Point.
The Covid-19, a boon for crooks
Interpol’s cybercrime unit has already identified some 3,000 websites linked to pharmacies suspected of selling counterfeit and illegal Covid-19 drugs and medical equipment. And this is only the tip of the iceberg … “The pandemic has already given rise to unprecedented predatory and opportunistic criminal activity,” Interpol recalled in December. “The sale of fake vaccines today is part of the fraud campaign which has related to the coronavirus epidemic since its inception. We remember the e-mail fraud that took place in March-April on the hydroalcoholic gel, on masks – at the time a rare commodity – and those who also promised to locate sick people around you. The Covid-19 is a godsend for crooks, ”explains Gérome Billois.
These actions aimed at the general public “constitute a significant risk for the health, even the life” of the victims of these organizations or individuals, underlined in a press release the secretary-general of Interpol. “It is essential that the authorities are as prepared as possible in the face of the upcoming outbreak of all types of criminal activity related to the Covid-19 vaccine.” To guard against these scams, experts call for vigilance. “Today it is essential to alert the general public to these illegal practices, which are likely to increase in the coming weeks. And above all, to transmit these alerts through platforms for the fight against cybercrime, such as ” cybermalveillance.gouv.fr ” “.