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Get Your Face Mask, COVID-19 Vaccine, and Hydroxychloroquine on the Dark Web

Written by Mara Gibor

As we enter into the month of April, the global shortage of basic supplies such as toilet paper and medical supplies such as face masks and ventilators continues. Additionally, demand has surged for medications touted as possible COVID-19 cures, creating a shortage impacting those patients requiring such medications for other illnesses. For example, hydroxychloroquine, a medication used to treat Lupus, arthritis, malaria, and other autoimmune system diseases, has recently been touted as a possible cure for COVID-19, and has become difficult to obtain for many patients relying on hydroxychloroquine for other illnesses such as Lupus.

One of many social media posts commenting on the shortage of Hydroxychloroquine
One of many social media posts commenting on the shortage of Hydroxychloroquine

These shortages, coupled with the widespread fear and anxiety related to the pandemic, have created an opportunity for fraudsters and cybercriminals. We have seen online advertisements for (fake) cures, vaccines, and disinfection services that do nothing other than prey on vulnerable individuals. We have also seen actors in Dark Web marketplaces, who are usually engaged in financial fraud, cybercrime and trade of narcotics, jump on the COVID-19 bandwagon.

Some vendors of illegal narcotics such as heroin, cocaine, and LSD, have now added Chloroquine, Hydroxychloroquine, and Azithromycin to their product listings on Dark Web marketplaces. Prices for these drugs vary; for example, one underground vendor sells a 100 tablets of Hydroxychloroquine 200mg for $200. Products are shipped from multiple locations including Germany and the United States.

An advertisement for Hydroxychloroquine on a Dark Web market
An advertisement for Hydroxychloroquine on a Dark Web market

Other Dark Web actors who previously focused on fraud-related products and services (e.g. fake passports and other documents) are ‘expanding’ into basic goods such as hand sanitizer and facemasks at very high markups.

A recent advertisement for hand sanitizer on a Dark Web market
A recent advertisement for hand sanitizer on a Dark Web market

Other Dark Web actors are trying to capitalize on the fear and anxiety by offering coronavirus testing kits (not approved by the FDA or other government agency), coronavirus prevention sprays, and even coronavirus cures and vaccines. Prices for these vaccines range from $270 to $540 and were offered by at least 6 vendors on one Dark Web market alone. The majority of these vendors appear to, or at least claim to be, in the United States and provide US phone numbers, Wickr IDs, and email addresses as forms of contact.

Dark Web advertisement for Coronavirus Vaccines
Dark Web advertisement for Coronavirus Vaccines

About the Author

Mara Gibor is the Director of Threat Intelligence at Q6 Cyber. She leads analyst teams in the collection and analysis of E-Crime intelligence from numerous open and restricted sources.