Fake vaccine vendors prowl dark web for gullible victims

Perilous realm: Users could get cheated in the anonymous world of the dark web, and not just for vaccines. — FAIHAN GHANI/The Star

PETALING JAYA: Covid-19 vaccines being peddled online is just another scam, claims a cybersecurity expert.

“This happens especially in dark web forums and chat rooms where people are sharing links to websites to ‘buy these vaccines’, ” said Cybersecurity firm LGMS founder Fong Choong Fook.

They would trick users into “registering for interest” to acquire their personal info which can then be used to scam them, he said.

“While there is technically no danger in browsing the dark web, users could end up becoming victims to fraud, ” said Vitaly Kamluk, Kaspersky director of global research and analysis team for Asia Pacific.“Operating on the dark web guarantees people a level of anonymity so they could be scammers offering fake goods.

“If you have received an item that didn’t work as promised, chances are you are not going to be able to file a complaint to get your money back, ” Kamluk said.

“There needs to be more awareness about the Covid-19 vaccine, especially among users on social media, ” said Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia (USIM) cybersecurity and system research unit coordinator Dr Madihah Mohd Saudi.

“People should be made aware that the Covid-19 vaccine has to be approved, endorsed and administered by the Health Ministry.

“They are exploiting people’s lack of awareness by making them believe the vaccine can be easily transported via courier and people will have no issues injecting it themselves, ” she said.

“Sadly, some people may be using their own fear or personal emotion to rationalise the decision to purchase vaccines on their own.”

She hoped more Malaysians will help others avoid purchasing vaccines online by flagging dubious sellers on social media or reporting them to the Malaysian Communications and Multimedia Commission (MCMC).

Kamluk urged the public to be patient and wait for the Covid-19 vaccine to be available through proper channels.

“Sometimes having the urge to be vaccinated first is due to concerns about their own mortality, ” he said, and also because a small fraction of people may distrust vaccines being acquired by the government and are seeking their own solutions.

“Earlier this year, scammers even offered a virtual Covid-19 cure on websites, saying it could protect computers from the virus, as some were not aware that it is not a computer virus, ” he said, adding that a lack of awareness makes people more susceptible to scams.

Companies involved in Covid-19 vaccine operation should also be on alert and strengthen their cybersecurity measures, he said.

“We expect cyber attackers to launch ransomware or denial of service attacks to make some systems inaccessible to disrupt the operation of companies offering services like logistics, ” he said.

However, Dhillon Kannabhiran, Hack In The Box CEO, said even if fake vaccines were available on the dark web, it won’t be easy for most people to acquire them.

“First of all, most transactions there are done via cryptocurrency such as bitcoin.

“Those who are not well-versed on this may be spooked the moment they hear the local exchange rate for one bitcoin is equivalent to almost RM90,000, ” he said.

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covid-19 , vaccine , fake , scam


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