Now that vaccines for Covid-19 are available, some people find it necessary to prove they have received the shots even if they haven’t.
And others do want the vaccine and are prepared to jump the queue and pay to get it.
Either way, the Dark Web is the place to look.
There are dozens of vendors on the Darknet, selling fake certificates for up to US$200 each, according to Check Point Research, in a study released on Tuesday.
The purpose of the phony documentation is for buyers to “prove” to employers, airlines, immigration officers and others that a vaccine has been administered when, in fact, it hasn’t, reports Newsweek.
Check Point spokesman Ekram Ahmed said, “More vendors are springing up weekly.”
Do-it-yourself options offer user-friendly interfaces for as little as US$25, so that a buyer fills it out and the phoney document is delivered via email within 30 minutes.
“We do negative Covid tests for travellers abroad and for getting a job,” reads one Darknet ad. “Everything is done within 24 hours.” This ad also has a special offer: “Buy 2 negative tests and get the 3rd for free!”
The criminals selling fake certificates are often actually “more interested in your information and identity for exploitation” than they are in the actual payment, said Oded Vanunu, of Check Point. “So that’s more like a regular phishing scam.”
Cyber criminals can help whether you want to get the vaccine or avoid the vaccine.
Check Point has identified 1,200 ads for black-market sellers of the vaccines themselves on the Darknet, often by the same people who sell fake documentation.
The vaccines are advertised as being made by legitimate pharmaceutical companies AstraZeneca and Johnson & Johnson, as well as Russian Sputnik and Chinese Sinopharm, and they cost from US$500-600 per dose.
Check Point posed as a customer in Israel to purchase a vaccine from a vendor in China and paid for the item in Bitcoin, as demanded by the seller. A week later, Check Point still had not received the vaccine.
“We may still get it, and if we do we’ll get the authorities involved, as well as the vaccine makers,” said Ahmed. “It could turn out to be water or the most dangerous thing you could inject.”
A separate study two weeks ago from cybersecurity firm Kaspersky found that Darknet vendors had sold from 100-500 vaccines apiece for as little as US$250 and as much as US$1,000 per dose.
They estimate that 30% may be genuine vaccines even when sold illegally online.
“There are pictures of packaging and medical certificates. It looks like some of these people do have inside access to medical institutions,” according to a Kaspersky researcher.
“Medical institutions, pharmacies, and hospitals around the world often end the day with leftover vaccine doses,” says the “white hat” researcher.
“It’s not inconceivable that someone working at these facilities could pocket the extra doses and connect with dark web intermediaries to sell them.”