Fake COVID vaccination certificates available on the dark web

Woman's hand holding a COVID-19 vaccination card

Security researchers have discovered a new, fast-growing black market for COVID-19 vaccine certificates, fake negative COVID tests, and even COVID vaccines on the dark web.

According to security analysts at Check Point Research, the dark net market for false COVID-19 vaccination certificates and negative COVID tests is exploding.

Simultaneously, the EU is discussing plans to introduce vaccine passports that confirm a person is vaccinated. Government officials and experts have touted vaccine passports have as a way to allow vaccinated individuals to travel to other countries, attend events, and more.

In investigations, researchers found fake “vaccine passport” certificates on sale for $150. Fake negative COVID test results are on sale from various sellers for just $25, as darknet vendors seek to capitalize on the demand for proof of vaccinations.

Researchers contacted a darknet vendor to understand the process and get as many details as possible regarding delivery, price, and authenticity. To counter the researchers’ questions, the seller stated they’d done this many times for many people and had no issues with it. Researchers only needed to provide the exact names and dates they wanted on the certificate and pay $200.

The counterfeit coronavirus vaccine prices offered on the dark net goes as low as $500 a dose. Since January, the number of adverts has exceeded 1,200, marking a 300% increase. The vaccines advertised include Oxford – AstraZeneca at $500, Johnson & Johnson vaccine at $600, Russian Sputnik vaccine at $600, and Chinese SINOPHARM vaccine at $500.

Oded Vanunu, head of product vulnerabilities research at Check Point, said the dark net is booming with COVID-vaccine-related activity, but this wasn’t the case when they started studying the dark net on this topic in January.

“Back then, we only saw a few hundred advertisements for just the Moderna or Pfizer vaccine. Today, adverts have tripled and offer every type of vaccine available. The new trend we’re starting to see is hackers offering fake vaccination and test certificates as they try to capitalize on the public’s interest in either getting a vaccine early or avoiding the vaccine but having proof of vaccination,” Vanunu said.

Vanunu added that it’s important people understand that attempting to obtain a vaccine, a vaccination card, or negative COVID-19 test result by unofficial means is extremely risky, as hackers are more interested in your money and information and identity for exploitation.

“People who have not been vaccinated and try to use fake COVID test results or vaccine certificates are damaging the fight against the disease. We also strongly urge everyone to not share their vaccination cards or negative COVID-19 tests on social media, as the information on those pictures can make its way onto the darknet in some form. I expect the activity on the darknet related to the coronavirus vaccine to continue to grow in the near-term,” Vanunu added.

Rene Millman

Rene Millman is a freelance writer and broadcaster who covers cybersecurity, AI, IoT, and the cloud. He also works as a contributing analyst at GigaOm and has previously worked as an analyst for Gartner covering the infrastructure market. He has made numerous television appearances to give his views and expertise on technology trends and companies that affect and shape our lives. You can follow Rene Millman on Twitter.