Criminals on the dark web are taking advantage of promising research on blood plasma therapy as a COVID-19 novel coronavirus treatment and have begun peddling blood belonging to supposed virus survivors as a “passive vaccination.”
A total of 645 darknet market listings of novel coronavirus-related products were identified by researchers of Australia National University’s Cybercrime Observatory in a new statistical bulletin that examined the scope and scale of online sales for such items amid the global pandemic.
A survey of the sites returned results for COVID-19-related products on 12, or 60%, of the total 20 markets in question. The remaining eight sites did not yield any related results, aside from ads promoting irrelevant items in “coronavirus sales” and ransomware and malware vendors advertising “COVID-19 related social engineering scripts.”
The release detailed that 222 of the 645 darknet listings for novel coronavirus-related products were unique across the 12 markets. Researchers highlighted that three markets identified in the bulletin accounted for 85% of the total unique listings.
“We undertook no purchases and the veracity of products on offer could not be verified. Information on purchases was not available,” researchers wrote in the bulletin.
Information on each listing was documented in the bulletin, with personal protective equipment accounting for around half of the items identified. One-third of the COVID-19-related products were “antiviral or repurposed medicines,” and “supposed vaccines, tests and diagnostic instruments each accounted for nearly 10 percent of listings.”
According to the US Food and Drug Administration, it is possible the COVID-19 antibodies found in convalescent plasma “may be able to be used to help others fight off the disease.”
One advertised “cure” for the novel coronavirus was priced at around $16,500 on the darknet.
“The idea of any kind of black market is that there will be some people who may be prepared to be jumping ahead of the queue, if you like, and taking a punt on a vaccine that’s undergoing trial.”