The hacker on March 23 created fake COVID-19 vaccine orders before deleting his seller account and walking away with $762,000 worth in bitcoin, according to Check Point Research.
“The dark web is booming with activity related to coronavirus vaccine services," Check Point Research spokesperson Ekram Ahmed said in a statement. "Vendors are offering fake vaccines, vaccination certificates and negative COVID-19 tests in scores. It’s clear to us that the target market for the dark web vendors are more dealers than the public at large."
Ahmed added that in Check Point's negotiations on the dark web ‒ which consists of discreet websites that are only accessible with specific software or authorization ‒ vendors tried to set up long-term relationships with buyers in which they could trust vendors "to deliver coronavirus goods over a longer period of time."
"Ultimately, these vendors want foot soldiers on the ground to scale distribution of their coronavirus services supply chain. The activity around coronavirus services has so much traction on the dark web that even hackers are trying to take advantage," the spokesperson said.
The administrator of the dark web COVID-19 services market on which the hacker in question was operating had to shut down the entire market until "the attack vector is fully remedied and identified," though he shutdown has not stopped the sale of certain COVID-19-related goods on the same web address, Check Point found.
Vendors are also selling COVID-19 vaccine "passports" and negative test documents on the dark web marketplace.
Fake vaccine "passports" are available for $250; buyers simply send their information and pay the vendor and receive documents in return, according to Check Point. Additionally, buyers can receive fake COVID-19 tests for as little as $25, and there are "multiple" counterfeit vaccines for sale between $500 and $1,000 per dose. Vaccine variants being advertised include the AstraZeneca, Sputnik, SINOPHARM and Johnson & Johnson vaccines.
There is a strong demand for these documents and for vaccine variants as people await permission to travel, attend large events and get new jobs, according to researchers.