COVID-19 vaccines being sold on dark web

COVID-19 vaccines on dark web.png
Posted at 8:49 PM, Mar 08, 2021
and last updated 2021-03-08 22:20:25-05

HAMPTON ROADS, Va. - One by one, people in Hampton Roads are getting their COVID-19 vaccine.

“The whole process was really easy,” Uwe Laucht told News 3 Monday. “[I’m] glad I got in, and now I just have to wait for the second shot.”

But now, the cybersecurity firm Kaspersky is releasing new information of COVID-19 shots being on the dark web.

“I hear five alarm bells ringing loud and clear for people to stay away,” North Carolina Attorney General Josh Stein said.

Stein told News 3 his office has heard of stolen vaccines ending up on the black market through the dark web.

Kaspersky researchers looked at 15 different marketplaces, finding ads for Pfizer, AstraZeneca, Moderna and unspecified vaccines.

“When you deal with criminals, you have no idea what they're selling,” Stein said. “They may be selling you something they say is a COVID-19 vaccine. It could be a drug that could kill you.”

According to Kaspersky, many sellers come from the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Germany, with prices per dose ranging from $250 to $1,200. Researchers added there’s an average cost of about $500, and payments are usually requested in Bitcoin.

“They don't want to wait; they want it now,” Tidewater Community College IT Professor Gregg Tennefoss said.

“If the supply is limited, which it is, and the demand is high, you're going to see people trying to make money off of it,” Family Practice Physician and News 3 Medical Expert Dr. Ryan Light said.

Kaspersky officials said buyers and sellers communicate through encrypted messaging apps like Wickr and Telegram.

“Basically, it's encrypted,” Tennefoss said. “You type your message, you send it, and it's nothing but a bunch of letters and characters that go out.”

Researchers said most underground sellers have made between 100 to 500 transactions, and it's not clear how many represent real shots and how many are a scam.

“If somebody walked up to you on a street and opened up their trench coat and had COVID vaccines, would you buy one?” Tennefoss said. “That's what you're talking about here.”

“I know that everyone wants it right away,” Dr. Light said.

Light added the medical community is working as fast as possible in terms of making the vaccine available to more people.

“Wait your turn, and when it's your turn, get your vaccine,” Stein said.

Stein also has a message for those taking part in selling shots on the dark web.

“It's absolutely reprehensible, and when we find you, we will hold you accountable to the fullest extent of the law,” Stein said.

Click here for our full COVID-19 vaccination guide.