A company specialising in blockchain technology has claimed to have uncovered a number of rogue vaccine markets accepting cryptocurrency payments on the dark web.
The dark web, which is home to approximately 95 per cent of all content on the internet and cannot be accessed from your regular Google Chrome, is regularly used to sell illegal items such as drugs and weapons (and even hitmen) among other nefarious services.
Coinfirm, which specialises in “powering the mass adoption of blockchain in the new financial system”, found incredible details of vendors offering stolen vaccines and certificates.
The report, released on July 1, revealed two key findings from the black market investigation.
“The investigation found scammers offering vaccines on the darknet and probable health sector corruption,” the report reads.
A screenshot of alleged black market vaccine website “Vaccine Shop” showed the anonymous vendor proudly offering “positions of stolen vaccine from the most used and tested”.
“We are very proud to finally be able to make everyone an offer to sell a vaccine against covid-19,” the webpage reads.
The site allegedly offers “BioNTech + Moderna” vaccines and claims to deliver them “directly in cooling packages” to the USA, Canada, Mexico, Poland, France, Netherlands, Italy and Spain.
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“Many operate on the darknet owing to the focus of the platforms on anonymity which many fraudsters take advantage of,” Coinfirm’s report continues. “Purchasing a substance from darknet markets may lead to a very different one being delivered, if at all.”
Coinfirm found market vendors in both Russia and the US, with a number of other smaller countries also linked to illegal dark web activity. One website claims to be able to enter your details into national health databases and sell proof of receiving the vaccine certificates.
“When you send me your address, I put the lot numbers from your area on the cards. You can either choose to put your name and birthday on the cards yourself for privacy reasons or I can put them so that the handwriting don’t (sic) be different and you will be in the system. In the data base (sic), the only thing that comes up is the lot numbers. Your name will not show up in the system because it is not needed for getting the vaccine.”
Coinfirm also claims to have uncovered a crypto wallet address belonging to a “cluster of addresses with activity on a Hong Kong-registered exchange that caters strongly to Eastern European clientele”.
According to the report, the address received payments of around $40,800 (AU$54,410) in the previous year for fraudulent vaccine certificates. Coindirm revealed a number of different cryptocurrencies, including Bitcoin (BTC), Ethereum (ETH), Dash (DASH), Litecoin (LTC), Tron (TRX), Monero (XMR), and Zcash (ZEC), were being used to buy the illicit goods.
International dark web markets, such as the infamous Silk Road, have become a hot topic in recent years with authorities desperate to trace vendors and illegal website administrators. Silk Road founder Ross Ulbricht became one of the USA’s biggest dark web targets before being arrested in 2013 and sentenced to a double life sentence plus forty years without possibility of parole.
The world’s largest known dark web marketplace is currently Hydra, which is a Russian-only service specialising in elaborate measures to ensure privacy.
Unlike the above markets, Hydra vendors reportedly refuse to send your order directly, rather using dead drops and sending customers GPS location to retrieve their package.
Vaccine certifications are reportedly sold on Hydra for anywhere between 3,500 to 30,000 RUB (AU$63 to $546). Coinfirm revealed every vendor claimed to input customer details into the national Russian system, no matter the price.
Some vendors on Hydra also reportedly sell test results showing a negative result of coronavirus, offered to customers for under AU$100.
One vendor’s description, translated to English, claimed to provide “certification of the completion of a full course of vaccinations from COVID-19, the dates of the vaccine and the series, the doctor’s signature and the seal of the medical organisation”, despite being 1/10th of the price of similar services.