Guru Gyan
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Guru Gyan

On Sale Now: Fake COVID-19 Vaccines

And many people may fall for these traps.

  • In early December, Interpol, the global police coordination agency, said that it has issued an orange alert to police forces in its 194 member states warning them that organised crime networks may try to sell fake COVID-19 vaccines or steal real supplies.
  • The agency stated that an analysis by its cybercrimes unit of about 3,000 online pharmaceutical websites suspected of selling illicit products showed that more than 1,700 contained phishing or spamming malware.

This sounds scary. It is hard to imagine a future where people with bad intentions would be selling fake vaccines or stealing vaccines, maybe to sell them in the black market. However, on the dark side, this prediction by Europol has already come true. A couple of days, a report showed that fake COVID-19 vaccines are sold online.

As per a report by cybersecurity company Check Point Research (CPR), a stream of posts from sources claiming to have a range of “Coronavirus vaccines” or “Coronavirus remedies” has been found on the darknet for sale. All the vendors are found to be accepting payments only in bitcoin, as it reduces the chance of being traced.

When researchers from CPR communicated with one vendor, they offered to sell an unspecified COVID-19 vaccine for 0.01 BTC (around U.S $300) and claimed that 14 doses are required.

Apart from selling fake vaccines, some are also using vaccine-related news as bait for their phishing campaigns. These emails contained malevolent .EXE files with the name “Download_Covid 19 New approved vaccines.23.07.2020.exe: and when users click on these emails, it will install an InfoStealer.

This installation is capable of gathering information like login information, usernames and passwords from the user’s computer. This will then help the threat actors to take over the accounts of the users.

At present, there have been several developments on the COVID-19 vaccine front. Pfizer/BioNTech SE’s vaccine has been approved in the UK and the US FDA has authorised the emergency rollout of Pfizer vaccine. So, claims about fake vaccines are also on the rise.

Since the beginning of November, there were 1062 new domains, which contain the word “vaccine” that were registered, out of which 400 also contain “covid” or “corona”, showed data by CPR. The data also showed that 6 of these sites were found to be suspicious.

We could say that some are trying to capitalise on the panic in people’s minds about doing anything to safeguard themselves from catching the virus. We believe that this might get worse when more pharmaceutical companies get closer to formulating a safe and effective vaccine.

So, in the meantime, all we can do is avoid falling for these traps. If you see any advertisement anywhere, claiming that they have the vaccine and asked you to make payments in bitcoin, please stay away from it. Also, never give login credentials or personal information in response to a text or email. Refrain from clicking on links in emails and instead click on the link from the Google results page after searching for it.

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