Fake vaccination certificates and negative Covid-19 test results are being sold on the dark web, according to cybersecurity researchers.
In January 2021, a study from Check Point Research (CPR) first revealed adverts on the dark web offering Covid-19 vaccines from $500. Since then, researchers say the number of vaccine ads has more than trebled.
The continued roll-out of coronavirus vaccines around the globe appears to have sparked a boom time for cybercriminals and fraudsters, with researchers finding fake vaccine cards from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) available on the dark web for just $150 each.
Other activities uncovered by CPR includes adverts for fake negative coronavirus test documents, with some fraudsters even offering “buy two get one free” deals.
DIY versions of negative coronavirus test documents are also now in circulation, the study found. These can be purchased for as little as $25 dollars and used to easily generate fake test documents at home.
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In one instance, researchers uncovered a vendor – who claimed to be based in the UK – advertising CDC vaccination cards. According to CPR, the vendor said they would only accept payment in Bitcoin as a means to avoid tracing.
Researchers also contacted a dark web vendor to gain a deeper understanding of the selling process and verify price and authenticity.
One seller told CPR that they had sold similar items “many times previously” for people and had encountered no significant issues in distributing materials.
On this occasion, all CPR needed to do was provide the exact names and dates they wanted to feature on the certificate and pay a fee of $200.
“The darknet is booming with activity related to Covid vaccines,” said Oded Vanunu, Head of Product Vulnerabilities Research at Check Point. “This wasn’t the case when we first started to study the darknet on this topic in January. Back then, we only saw a few hundred advertisements for just the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine.
“Today, adverts have tripled and offer every type of vaccine available. The new trend we’re starting to see is hackers offering fake vaccination and test certificates as they try to capitalize on the public’s interest in either getting a vaccine early, or avoiding the vaccine but having proof of vaccination,” he added.
Invisible to search engines, the dark web has long stood as a safe haven for hackers, cybercriminals and fraudsters of various kinds.
Products and services available on the dark web range from stolen personal data and payment details to drugs, weapons and software for use in cybercrime.
Fake coronavirus vaccine kits are the latest hot product being offered on the dark web, with some available for as little as $500 per dose.
Since January 2021, CPR said the number of adverts has exceeded 1,200, marking a 300% increase. Several vaccine variants are available for sale, including Oxford-AstraZeneca, Sputnik, Johnson & Johnson and Sinopharm products.
“It’s imperative for people to understand that attempting to obtain a vaccine, a vaccination card or negative Covid-19 test result by unofficial means is extremely risky, as hackers are more interested in your money, information and identity for exploitation,” Vanunu warned.
“People who have not been vaccinated and try to use fake Covid test results or vaccine certificates are damaging the fight against the disease.”
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