Over the past month, criminals have continued to leverage the high demand medical supplies, plaguing the digital world with fake coronavirus-related items that threaten the lives and pockets of consumers everywhere. Stumbling upon medical equipment and sanitary product listings should always make you second-guess the credibility of the vendor – most listings are fake or require writing a fat check.
So while consumers are in a frenzy search of personal protective equipment (PPE), the dark web is oozing with a stock of Covid-19 related gear and medical products.
This month, a team of security researchers from the Australian National University (ANU) Cybercrime Observatory analyzed 20 dark web markets for listings of Covid-19 products, identifying a range of vaccines, antiviral medication, testing kits and personal protective equipment (PPE) such as surgical or N95 masks.
The analysis shows 645 listings for 222 unique COVID-19 related products found in 12 underground markets. Around 45% of the postings were PPE such as masks, sanitizers, gowns and gloves, with quantities and prices varying according to each seller.
For example, a vendor on the Agartha marketplace was offering ‘CORONA MEDICAL FACE MASK’ for $500, while a DarkBay seller advertised ‘Factory Supply Anti Virus Cotton Reusable N95 1860 Face Mask for Corona Virus’ for $1. The price tag varies for bulk offers. 10,000 face masks were selling for a whopping A$17,952.
Other popular listings include antimalarial and antiviral drugs, highly featured in the media for having curative properties against the novel virus:
• ‘Hydroxychloroquine Hcqs 400mg 100 Pills $139 Miracle Drug For Coronavirus’
• Favipiravir Pills 10 Pills Per Bottle COVID19 CURE’ for A$165
• ‘Order Azithromycin for Coronavirus – COVID-19’ for A$329’
• Combination of ‘Favipiravir, Chloroquine, Lopinavir and Ritonavir’ from A$674
No vaccine? No problem! The surveyed underground markets have it all. Researchers found that 6% of the postings were offering coronavirus vaccines originating from China – no detailed composition provided.
“There may also be experimental vaccines illegally diverted from research laboratories conducting animal or human trials, or even sourced from patients who have recovered from COVID-19”, said researchers.
The average cost of this miracle vaccine is around A$575, but some vendors charge between US$10,000 to US$15,000. Testing kits were also available for purchase. From the 28 listings found by researchers, the price could go as high as A$3,287 for 500 ‘Corona Virus Test/COVID-19 Test Kits’.
“The sale of fake vaccines and other compromised medical items poses a real risk to the health and safety of the public and needs to be dealt with swiftly. These results will assist our law enforcement partners in tackling this concerning issue,” said the Deputy Director of the Australian Institute of Criminology.