face mask coronavirus

Face masks and test kits found for sale on the dark web

Image credit: Dreamstime

Unregistered Covid-19 test kits and hard-to-acquire face masks are being sold on the dark web as criminals look to take advantage of people’s concerns about the virus.

Sellers have also been offering discounts on drugs in order to entice people in lockdown.

Threat research analyst Alex Guirakhoo from Digital Shadows said: “Cyber criminals who typically engage in the sale of illicit drugs have seen the opportunity to diversify their listings to include sales of face masks, hand sanitiser, and now even chloroquine on popular cyber-criminal marketplaces like Empire.”

He said that while some dark web peddlers were trying “to capitalise on fear and uncertainty” surrounding the pandemic, he’d also seen some “atypical discussions” on forums where users were discouraging others from profiting off the pandemic and people providing health and safety information.

Digital Shadows found that mentions of Covid-19 on the dark web have rocketed since the outbreak began in January; in the past month alone, there has been a 738 per cent increase in the number of Covid-19-related terms.

“For those vendors not involved in the sale of personal protective equipment (PPE), Covid-19-related terms have also been used to promote their drug sales,” Guirakhoo explained.

“Listings which include terms like ‘coronavirus sale!’ alongside heavy discounts are now common on all major cyber-criminal forums and marketplaces.

“This is likely an attempt to keep their businesses going and attract customers who have been financially impacted by the pandemic.

“It is also realistically possible that cyber criminals are attempting to capitalise on customers impacted by shelter in place orders.

“If people cannot physically meet their dealers, they may be more enticed to purchase drugs on the dark web.”

The National Crime Agency has said the amount of illegal drugs being smuggled into the UK has dropped in the face of international lockdown conditions, driving prices up. But it also said it had found fraudsters making £1.8m in activities linked to the pandemic

It has shut down six domains since the outbreak of the virus to stop cyber attackers trying to steal personal data.

In 2018, then-home secretary Amber Rudd said the UK would crack down on the dark web as it was becoming a hotspot through which a variety of criminal activities were occurring. 

Much like legitimate retailers, sellers on the dark web partook in Black Friday last year with a wave of discounts on everything from illegal drugs, fake identity documents and stolen data.

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