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Hackers offering forged “official” COVID-19 vaccination certificates and negative test results on dark net

By Shannon Williams
Wed 24 Mar 2021
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Fake vaccination certificates and negative COVID-19 tests are being offered on the dark net, according to Check Point Research. 

The company also found a 350% increase in the number of advertisements selling alleged COVID-19 vaccines within the last three months.

In January 2021, CPR first reported on the hundreds of advertisements on the dark net offering COVID-19 vaccines from $500. The number of adverts for vaccines has now more than trebled to over 1,200. And according to researchers, activity on the dark net has expanded to offer fake vaccination cards from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) for $150 each. 

Other activities include offers to buy fake negative COVID-19 test documents under “buy two get the third for free” deals, as well as a DIY version of a negative COVID-19 test document that can be generated in less than 30 minutes for as low as $25. The dark net now sells services on all types of certificates related to COVID-19 tests and vaccinations

The dark net is the part of the internet that isn’t visible to search engines, where hackers exchange resources, such as stolen credit card numbers, drugs, cyber weapons, software that helps break into people’s computers – and now, COVID-19-related services.

 A range of counterfeit coronavirus vaccines are being offered on the dark net for as low as $500 a dose. Since January 2021, the number of adverts has exceeded 1,200, marking a 300% increase. The vaccines advertised include Oxford – AstraZeneca at $500, the Johnson & Johnson vaccine at $600, the Russian Sputnik vaccine at $600 and the Chinese SINOPHARM vaccine at $500.

 “The dark net is booming with activity related to COVID-19 vaccines. This wasn’t the case when we first started to study the dark net on this topic in January," says Oded Vanunu, head of product vulnerabilities research at Check Point.

"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," he says.

"The new trend we’re starting to see is hackers offering fake vaccination and test certificates as they try to capitalise on the public’s interest in either getting a vaccine early, or avoiding the vaccine but having proof of vaccination."

Vanunu says it is 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".

"People who have not been vaccinated and try to use fake COVID-19 test results or vaccine certificates are damaging the fight against the disease," he says.

"We also strongly urge everyone to not share their vaccination cards or negative COVID-19 tests on social media, as the information on those pictures can make its way onto the dark net in some form.

"I expect the activity on the dark net related to the coronavirus vaccine to continue to grow in the near-term."

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