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Fake Covid-19 vaccines, remedies-related scams increase exponentially on Darknet: Checkpoint report

The researchers at the cybersecurity firm were able to find plenty of posts on the Darknet where they claimed to sell Covid-19 vaccines or remedies.

By: Tech Desk | New Delhi | December 14, 2020 5:55:33 pm
Coronavirus vaccine, Oxford vaccine, Astrazeneca vaccine, Covid vaccine, Indian ExpressGlass ampoules of Covid-19 vaccine. (Bloomberg Creative Photos)

During the Covid-19 pandemic, cyber-attacks were on a high as scammers ran phishing campaigns to fool users who spent more time online than ever. Now, with the Covid-19 vaccines about to hit shelves, scammers are trying to take advantage of people’s anxiousness as they try to tempt people into buying fake remedies or even the Covid-19 vaccine from Pfizer, BioNTech and others for $250 (Rs 18,385 approximately) on Darknet. As per a report by cybersecurity firm Checkpoint, over 1,062 domains have been created in November consisting of the keyword ‘vaccine’. This number is even higher than the ‘vaccine’ related registrations in the past three months.

The researchers at the cybersecurity firm were able to find plenty of posts on the Darknet where they claimed to sell Covid-19 vaccines or remedies. This has already led to an early warning notification from Europol, the European Union Agency for Law Enforcement Cooperation to curb the vaccine-related scams.

Example of scams

The report also revealed common posts on the Darknet with the prominent ones being — “available corona virus vaccine $250” to “Say bye bye to COVID19=CHLOROQUINE PHOSPHATE” to “Buy fast.CORONA-VIRUS VACCINE IS OUT NOW .”

To avoid being traced by the authorities, most of these scammers are demanding payment in bitcoin.  The company also contacted one of the sellers who asked for 0.01 BTC which translates to $300 (Rs 22,061). The particular vendor contacted claimed that 14 doses of the vaccine will be required whereas the officials are saying that two shots of the Covid-19 vaccine are needed three weeks apart for a person.

The scams are not just limited to Darknet as scammers have been using popular messaging platforms WhatsApp and Telegram as well. On the other hand, another claimed that Covid-19 can be cured by ‘Chloroquine’. Earlier this year, President Donald Trump also advised the use of hydroxychloroquine to treat the novel coronavirus.

Phishing email campaigns

If you have been receiving emails regarding Covid-19 medications, refrain from clicking on them as they may expose you to cybercriminals. Checkpoint found that emails contain .EXE files named “Download_Covid 19 New approved vaccines.23.07.2020.exe” which leads to the automatic installation of InfoStealer which can get hold of our personal and financial data including passwords. Even staying away from emails disguising as informative material on the Covid-19 vaccine can cause trouble. They may contain a subject line like this — “pfizer’s Covid vaccine: 11 things you need to know”.

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