The cybersecurity firm, Kaspersky, uncovered that doses of COVID-19 vaccines are being sold on the dark web. However, it's hard to know whether or not they're the actual injections or just some phony liquid.
Delays in vaccine rollouts and misjudgment of orders by governments have led some desperate people to get their COVID-19 jab in whichever way they can. Even if that means a visit to the dark web.
The dark web is a modern-day version of the black market, which has officially existed since 1931 after The Economist coined the term. So it's no real surprise that people still turn to such a marketplace to find certain goods.
How COVID-19 vaccines are sold on the dark web
Kaspersky searched 15 different dark web marketplaces, where the team uncovered ads for three different major COVID-19 vaccines: Pfizer/BioNTech, Moderna, and AstraZeneca. They also found some unverified vaccines being sold.
The dark web sellers are predominantly based in Europe with smatterings across the U.S., and the average price per dose is $500. Direct messaging is carried out through encrypted apps such as Telegram and Wickr.
The dark web is an easy place to remain anonymous, for both sellers and buyers, and these apps assist the sales. On top of that, most sellers request payment in bitcoin, furthering anonymity.
Kaspersky discovered that some sellers had already carried out hundreds of transactions.
Never sure if doses are actual vaccines
Naturally, buying illegal goods on the dark web doesn't bring about a great sense of security in terms of the purchase's authenticity. It's hard to know whether these vaccines are the real deal, or if they're just saline water — or worse, harmful liquids.
Even if the doses are real, transporting and storing them presents another question mark. In Pfizer and BioNTech's vaccine's case, the liquid has to be stored at -94 degrees Fahrenheit (-70 degrees Celcius), and once out of the cooling system, it can only last safely up to five days.
Moderna's vaccine requires -4 degrees Fahrenheit (-20 degrees Celcius) for safekeeping, while AstraZeneca's can be kept at regular fridge temperatures.
So it's easy to see where these sales can go terribly wrong.
No vaccine, no worries, just buy the certificate
And if buyers visiting the dark web can't get their hands on an illegal vaccine, they can simply buy a certificate stating they've received both doses.
Many places will start requiring some form of proof of inoculation, with vaccine passports in discussions, so some sellers on the dark web are offering fake vaccine certificates for as little as $20.
Hopefully, this Kaspersky study pushes people to wait their turn in the vaccine queue, rather than entice them to peruse the dark web in search of potentially fake and harmful vaccines and fake certificates. It's just not worth the risk both legally and for health reasons.