Online criminals are offering blood that allegedly belonged to recovered coronavirus patients for sale on the dark web as a “passive vaccine”.
Researchers from Australia National University made the discovery while looking into how cybercriminals are exploiting the virus crisis, for a report released today by the Australian Institute of Criminology.
“The word I think is passive vaccination, where the blood plasma of a recovered COVID-19 patient is harvested for the antibodies and that is then used to inject into someone who may be at risk of COVID-19,” lead researcher Rod Broadhurst told AM.
The offering was among hundreds of coronavirus-related “products” for sale on the dark web, that the team uncovered in just one day of looking earlier this month.
Items of personal protective equipment, thought to be stolen from factories, were the most readily available for sale.
That was followed by reputed cures for the disease, including anti-malaria drugs widely available in the legitimate market and reputed animal-trial vaccines for the virus.
One “cure” was being offered for a price of just under $25,000.
“The idea of any kind of black market is that there will be some people who may be prepared to be jumping ahead of the queue if you like and taking a punt on a vaccine that’s undergoing trial,” professor Broadhurst told AM.
Of the 20 dark web sites investigated, just three accounted for around 90 per cent of the coronavirus products for sale.
Others banned the listing of such items.
Professor Broadhurst says many dark web operators are wary of high-risk activities that would bring them to the attention of law enforcement.
The dark web refers to online marketplaces for illegal items such as drugs and stolen technology.
Deep encryption methods are used to hide the identities of sellers from police.