Europol: Beware Fake Dark Web #COVID19 Vaccines

As the UK begins preparations to deploy a COVID-19 vaccine, law enforcers are warning of counterfeit versions circulating on the dark web.

After passing the UK’s strict regulatory approvals process in record time, the Pfizer/BioNTech vaccine will begin rolling out to vulnerable groups this week.

However, Europol warned on Friday that counterfeit versions are already starting to circulate on the dark web, as organized crime groups react to the surge in interest and demand from the public.

These will be “ineffective at best or toxic at worst” and could lead to outbreaks of the virus among communities assumed to have been vaccinated, the police agency warned.

“Counterfeit vaccines may circulate on illicit markets or be introduced to the legal market, as occurs regularly with other counterfeit pharmaceuticals. The expected high demand for COVID-19 vaccines will likely attract organized crime groups seeking to capitalize on the pandemic situation and subsequent vaccination campaigns,” it explained.

“For example, criminals may resort to illegally refilling empty vials. Therefore, procedures for the correct disposal of vials by grinding or incineration will have to be properly enforced.”

Criminals may also look to seize genuine vaccines from supply chain companies charged with delivering them, Europol warned.

“Genuine COVID-19 vaccines will be highly valuable commodities and their supply chains (storage, transportation and delivery) will be at risk of being targeted by criminals seeking to obtain these pharmaceutical products,” it said.

“Organized crime groups might target transit containing COVID-19 vaccines for hijacking and theft.”

These vaccines could also pose a risk to public health, as they are likely to have been stored in ways that could impair the product, said Europol.

Domain Tools senior security researcher, Chad Anderson, also urged the public to be patient and wait their turn for official COVID-19 jabs.

“There is absolutely no guarantee that what you purchase from a dark web marketplace is what you will receive,” he added. “Unvetted dark web marketplaces now proliferate and allow sellers to scam at will. As always, we encourage users to not purchase items from dark web marketplaces and fund this criminal economy.”

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