Covid vaccines being flogged on dark web as criminals look to get rich

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Criminals are selling coronavirus vaccines on hidden parts of the internet just days after the first shot was approved this month.

As organised crime looks to profit from global demand for inoculation, jabs were being flogged for eye-watering prices on the dark web.

One such offer, traced by cybersecurity company Check Point Software, was priced at $250 (£185) plus shipping.

In a screenshot of the ad, the seller promises "stealth" delivery in double-wrapped packaging.

Shipping from the US via post or courier would cost $20 (£15), with an extra $5 (£3.70) to secure next-day delivery.

Another criminal claimed to have the Chinese-developed Sinopharm and Sinovac vaccines for sale at $750 (£555) for two doses, payable in bitcoin.

The ad featured a stock photo not showing the correct vaccine packaging, and when asked how it should be stored, the seller suggested a fridge or cold box.

Experts have warned the Financial Times that many of the vaccines for sale on the dark web are either fake or will never be shipped.

But they said that such scams will increase in the New Year as demand for vaccines outstrips supply.

It comes as Interpol and Europol warned this month of a likely "onslaught" of criminal activity linked to the vaccine, including online fraud, theft, and the sale of fake or dodgy doses.

Even empty vaccine vials could be sold, sometimes illegally refilled.

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Amy Shortman, a pharmaceutical logistics expert at Overhaul, told the FT: "There will always be a market for people who wouldn't necessarily have access to that medicine and wanted to protect themselves and their families."

Citing the current illegal market in chemotherapy medicines, she said: "There will be, certainly globally, a lot of money that can be made by criminals."

Experts also fear genuine jabs will be stolen and sold on the black market ahead of the biggest global vaccination effort in history.

Thorsten Neumann from supply chain security association Tapa said: "We need to tell people at the vaccine centres that they carry gold.

"Criminals don't see a vaccine load, they see money," he said, highlighting the risk that supply chain workers with links to criminals could provide information to gangs.

Since the pandemic began, hospitals and healthcare centres worldwide have reported record numbers of phishing, ransomware and other cyber attacks.

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"We have seen very targeted attacks related to the vaccine," said Evangelos Ouzounis, head of the secure infrastructure unit at the Eu Agency for Cyber Security.

"The health sector is not very mature in terms of cyber security."

While data firm Experian has warned many could look to "jump the queue" to get a vaccine by buying fake credentials to make themselves more eligible for the jab.

  • Crime
  • Coronavirus

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