It was only a matter of time and now an investigation by researchers at Kaspersky led them to find 15 different marketplaces on the Darknet advertising the availability of COVID-19 vaccines available for purchase. The advertised COVID-19 vaccines included the three major ones, namely Pfizer/BioNTech, AstraZeneca, as well as unnamed and unverified "COVID19" vaccines.
According to Kaspersky's research, the majority of the people selling the supposed COVID-19 vaccines came from France, Germany, the UK, and the USA, with prices ranging from $250 to $1,200 per dose.
“You can find just about anything on the Darknet, so it’s not surprising sellers there would attempt to capitalize on the vaccination campaign. Over the past year, there have been a whole host of scams exploiting the COVID topic, and many of them have been successful. Right now, not only are people selling vaccine doses, but they’re also selling vaccination records - pieces of paper that can help you travel freely. It’s important for users to be cautious of any “deal” related to the pandemic, and, of course, it’s never a good idea to buy a vaccine off the Darknet,” said Dmitry Galov, security expert at Kaspersky.
COVID-19 vaccination across Africa
The entire world is currently undergoing one of the largest and most complex vaccination programs in history, and, not surprisingly, scammers and sellers on the darknet have been eager to make a profit off the process.
In their research, Kaspersky does not disclose who the customers for these Darknet COVID-19 vaccines are or from which countries they come from. However, it would not be surprising to learn that some of them are from countries where governments are slow in vaccinating the population or struggling to acquire COVID-19 vaccines, as is the case in some countries across Africa.
As a result of the slow COVID-19 vaccination roll-outs across parts of the continent, some companies have stepped in to assist. One such notable and recent intervention is MTN Group which donated $25 million towards the African Union's COVID-19 vaccination program. According to both organizations, the money will help to secure seven million doses of the COVID-19 vaccine.
COVID-19 vaccines for sale on the darknet
The sales of the COVID-19 vaccines are facilitated through communications via encrypted messaging apps such as Wickr and Telegram, while payments are requested in the form of cryptocurrency, primarily Bitcoin.
What is interesting to read, according to Kaspersky, the majority of the darknet COVID-19 vaccine sellers have made between 100-500 transactions. This is a signal that there is a market for what they sell, but given that it is an unregulated market, it really is not clear what customers are purchasing.
"If you see an advertisement for something related to COVID, look carefully at the URLs of the sites that you visit. If just one letter looks out of place, or if the usual .com has been replaced with .com.tk or something along those lines, your gut should tell you it’s phishing. Never enter personal information on such a site," advices Kaspersky.
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