Scammers are selling fake vaccine passports for $250 on the dark web

For airports, border enforcement and others, the cybersecurity company Checkpoint Research has recommended digitally signed QR Codes to be scanned on vaccine certificates. (AP)

As governments around the world explore the possibility of vaccine passports to facilitate reopening of economies, fraudsters are selling fake vaccine passports on the dark web. According to a report by cybersecurity company Checkpoint Research, fake “vaccine passport certificates" are on sale for $250 on the dark web. “Users simply send their details and the money, and the seller emails back the fake documents," the firm said in a blog post.

Checkpoint’s researchers also reached out to one of the scammers to understand how the process works and were assured that the vendors had done this for many people. “To our question regarding a signature of a physician on the certificate and indicators of its authenticity, the seller reassured us they have done this many times previously for many people, and had no issues with it. All we needed to do was provide the exact names and dates we wanted on the certificate (of the vaccinations supposedly made), and pay $200," the company said in its post.

According to Checkpoint, its researchers have spotted an “increasing amount" of advertisements for vaccines on Darknet markets. The firm said it found over 1,200 such advertisements in the US and European markets, including Spain, Germany, France and Russia. “This represents over a 300% increase since January 2021. The vaccines advertised include Oxford-AstraZeneca, Johnson & Johnson, the Russian Sputnik Vaccine, and the Chinese SINOPHARM vaccine," the company said.

AstraZeneca’s vaccines are being offered at $500, while Johnson & Johnson and Sputnik are being offered at $600 each. Checkpoint didn’t provide a price for the SINOPHARM vaccine. Overall, the prices range between $500 and $1,000, according to the security firm.

The firm recommended that countries manage a central repository of tests and vaccinated individuals, which can be shared with authorized bodies. “All data of tests and vaccinated population should be digitally signed with encrypted keys," the firm wrote. For airports, border enforcement and others, the firm recommended digitally signed QR Codes to be scanned on vaccine certificates.

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