Fake COVID-19 vaccine for sale on dark web

Groups of researchers, companies and governments around the world are working tirelessly to perfect a vaccine against the dangerous COVID-19 disease, which some hacking groups have tried to use to their advantage.

In a recent report, Europol recommends that technology users beware of counterfeit versions of the vaccine circulating on the dark web. The risk increases over the days, as the British authorities are about to approve the distribution of the vaccine developed by Pfizer/BioNTech.

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In its report, Europol warns that counterfeit versions of the vaccine are already advertised in dark web forums, which could attract the attention of thousands of people despite the obvious risk of purchasing a vaccine on the black market: “At best, this would be completely ineffective. On the other hand, this so-called vaccine could be highly toxic to people,” the agency says. Counterfeit vaccines can circulate in illicit markets or enter the legal market, as is commonly the case with other counterfeit pharmaceuticals, experts mention.

In addition, experts warn that threat actors may also be trying to steal genuine vaccines by supply chain commitment: “These vaccines will be highly valued products, so their supply chains face a potential risk of attack.”

On the other hand, public health experts say that these vaccines could also pose a severe risk, as they are likely to have been stored incorrectly, which would end up damaging the product. Chad Anderson, security expert at Domain Tools, recommends users be patient and wait for the actual vaccine to be ready for the general public: “There is absolutely no guarantee that what you buy on the black market will be what you will receive,” he adds. “Fraud proliferates in clandestine Internet forums; we ask users not to buy a single item on these platforms.”