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Covid-19 test kits, PPE, antiviral drugs on sale at Dark web’s pandemic sale


By: Tech Desk | New Delhi |

Published: June 1, 2020 2:18:22 pm





Closeup of a young man in an office holding a briefcase and a surgical mask in his hand. (Image source: Getty Images)

Cybercriminals have been riding on the coronavirus scare wave around the world leaving no stone unturned to make a profit out of the pandemic.  Every other e-commerce portal moved against the coronavirus-themed sales banning the goods and services related to Covid-19 that were either priced too high or came with false promises like curing the virus.

However, as one would have imagined, things are not the same on the dark web. Items like Covid-19 test kits, PPE kits, antiviral drugs, and more are available on Empire Market— a popular place to buy illegal goods on the dark web, as per a report by cybersecurity company Sophos.

Empire Market is one of the few prominent dark web markets that hasn’t banned the sale of pandemic-related goods. John Shier, senior security advisor, Sophos explored the portal to find at-home Covid-19 rapid test kits, drugs claiming to cure coronavirus, and other materials related to the virus.

Shier said he was able to identify that six of the nine different kits found on Empire Market were legitimately manufactured, but the product delivered to the buyers could be different. He found that a vendor of such testing kits also sells the same product on two other sites.

Also read | Pay money or get coronavirus, ‘dirty little secret’ emails scare with Covid-19

“All four domains associated with this seller were registered in March and three of them are a variation on the phrase ‘corona safe’,” Shier said. Even though there is nothing wrong in registering domains with words corona or Covid in them, URLs with such names raise a red flag because ever since the start of the pandemic, there has been an explosion in coronavirus-related domain name registrations, many of which are being used for malicious purposes.

coronavirus, dark web, ppe kits, covid 19 rapid test kits, coronavirus related items selling on dark web. covid19 rapid test kits, coronavirus drugs, covid19 scams Coronavirus related drugs on sale. (Image: Sophos)

Drugs for Covid-19

On the Empire Market, drugs that have been touted as a prospective treatment for Covid-19 are also readily available on the portal.

Also read | From fake apps to phishing mails, how Covid-19 is affecting our tech lives

“The vendor who posted the most ads for hydroxychloroquine on Empire, a total of 33, claims to have an unlimited supply and will sell you a whopping 9,000 pills for $1,194,” Shier said. “Most of the drugs on offer appeared to be legitimate products manufactured by genuine pharmaceutical companies, but some were clearly scams.”

Books that teach fraud

As per the report, the pandemic-themed sale is not limited to only physical goods but also includes digital goods such as guides that teach you how to “profit directly from the pandemic, rather than because of it”. These scam guides have always been available but now that everyone is spending more time at home, these vendors are hoping to cash in on the opportunity.

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“We cannot overlook the fact that many people have lost their primary income due to the pandemic and some may turn to running these scams simply as means to pay their mounting bills,” Shier said.

We have already seen a rise in the phishing attempts, malware attacks, and identity theft, which are connected somewhere to the Covid-19 pandemic. There have been coronavirus-themed extortion email campaigns, malicious websites and apps related to coronavirus, fake Covid-19 tracking dashboards to hack computers, and more ever since the start of this year.

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