The darknet world is always sensitive to situations that spell public vulnerability. It is common knowledge that online users have become victim to various exploitation schemes created by darknet vendors. In the latest development, it appears that the spread of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) has caught the attention of these vendors looking out to prey on oblivious netizens.
COVID-19, the specific strain of human coronavirus that has registered 170, 002 cases worldwide, has driven the high demand in hygiene products that are said to help contain new infections.
Immediately following the global acknowledgement of Coronavirus infections as a pandemic, a number of items were earmarked for financial speculation.
In this context, surgical masks became scarce – a situation that was exacerbated by vendors that were out to take advantage of the widely spread public panic. This reality occurs in the face of a lack of sufficient evidence suggesting the effectiveness of these items to prevent viral transmission.
While the current public frenzy over sanitation items surges, a number of fake sanitation items and fraudulent listings have cropped up within darknet corridors.
According to Digital Shadows, a digital risk management firm, surgical masks were up for sale on Empire Market – a darknet platform that is known within the circles of drug barons, counterfeit goods entrepreneurs and cybercriminals.
The firm discovered a significant number of sellers offering “face masks to prevent COVID-19 infection” – with one listing spelling out the availability of 2,000boxes of coronavirus masks to be sold for $6,500.
In addition, another listing was made by a Ukraine-based vendor who claimed that they had the capacity to produce 200,000 masks every fortnight – a scale that would suggest a negative effect on the overall quality of the masks.
A common pattern with all the listings was the specific mention of “COVID-19” in a clear plan to take advantage of the current global circumstances. According to the company, it can be inferred that the current darknet vendors dealing in the face masks are the same traders that have used the darknet platform to sell drugs and other forms of illicit goods and services.
Otherwise, the question of authenticity is very important – much of the advertised face masks appear to be noncertified (FFP3 or FFP2) and at this point, it is difficult to ascertain whether customers are guaranteed quality medical-grade sanitation products.