COVID-19 Vaccine Being Sold on the Dark Web, Illegal Market is Blooming
Updated: Apr 22
While COVID-19 vaccination has been delayed due to a major shortage, causing a great deal of controversy around the world, it's available in one place for anyone willing to pay the price.
When there is a lack of production capacity and high demand for a product, the black market comes into the picture -- as the second wealthiest economy of the world -- side by side with the dark web.
Everything is included, from exotic animals, drugs, and nuclear weapons, to everything connected with COVID-19 -- vaccine, negative test papers, and vaccine passports.
The dark web is a term that refers to a set of web pages that cannot be found using traditional search engines, nor can they be opened using ordinary web browsers. Almost all sites on the dark web use specific browser tools, mostly Tor to hide their identity and activity.
This means that we have no knowledge of who is behind the page, traffic has several levels of protection and the trace of the final IP address is lost.
The popular websites and browsers we are using daily are just the surface, Google is indexing (an information system that scans documents on disk and catalogues them to allow them to be searched) only a small part of the web. Cyber-security experts are saying that the non-indexed part or the dark web, is 500 times bigger than the indexed part.
Even some people from totalitarian regimes use the dark web to communicate with the outer world, it is most popular for illegal goods or services -- like weapons, illegal pornography, or terrorism, things you can not purchase using your “normal” browser. Therefore, it is highly recommended to stay away from the dark web because you won”t find anything good.
If you are an average internet user, you have probably heard about the dark web for the first time in 2013, when the drug lord of the web underground, Ross Ulbricht called Silk Road was arrested by the FBI. No matter how well protected your anonymity is there, things could end very badly if you dare to purchase on the internet underbelly. If someone tracks you, you will definitely get arrested.
Stolen patents, Instagram followers, and diamonds are likely the most benign things on the illegal dark web market. The most horrific part, which according to the experts is taking 80% of the dark web search, is child pornography and human trafficking.
For doses of Sputnik and Johnson & Johnson, the average price is $750, while fake vaccination passports are being sold for $150. AstraZeneca is the cheapest vaccine and can be found for $500. BBC reports that sellers are from Germany, Russia, United States, Spain, UK, and France.
With the announcements of a Green Digital Certificate, a document to make travel easier inside the EU, for anyone vaccinated or tested negative on the virus, there is no surprise there is high demand. The payment method is mostly Bitcoin, as a hard-to-trace cryptocurrency.
Since the vaccine trade on the dark web is illegal and anonymous, there is great uncertainty about it. There is no verification if the vaccines are real and if they are, another challenge occurs -- proper storage. For example, Pfizer should be stored at -70 degrees and can survive only five days after defrosting.
The World Health Organization is warning: "Falsified COVID-19 vaccines pose a serious risk to global public health and place an additional burden on vulnerable populations and health systems. It is important to identify and remove these from circulation."
The solution vaccine companies are working on might be the urgent adoption of a QR system on all vaccine documentation.