Dark web sites are now full of face masks and other coronavirus-related products. The information a new study by blockchain analyst firm Elliptic. The dark web is an environment on the internet where they disguise the server's location and offer a way to browse almost anonymously.
Facial masks, such as the “N95's” manufactured by US supplier 3M, are scarce, and their sale for non-medical use has been restricted, as governments are buying everything to protect frontline medical staff during the pandemic. coronavirus.
However, Elliptic reported on Monday (6) that "hundreds of items have recently appeared in the dark net markets for N95 masks".
As deep web stores are beyond the reach of regular search engines (like google) and payment is made with cryptocurrencies, they are popular with criminals due to the difficulty of tracking transactions and users involved.
Bulk medical grade mask offerings run for about $ 1.75 per mask – "a low markup compared to retail prices," notes Elliptic. Legitimate markets, such as Amazon, list the same masks for sale for more than $ 10 each.
In addition to illegal drugs, stolen credit cards and now masks, dark net sellers are also offering diagnostic tests and chloroquine, the researchers said.
Although it has been touted as a cure for coronavirus by U.S. President Donald Trump, the effectiveness of chloroquine has yet to be clinically approved. Despite this, packs of 150 pills are available on the dark web for $ 500. With a prescription, a similar amount of the drug costs about $ 25.
Elliptic said deep web stores have started showing US sellers to buyers in Russia and Europe as demand for protective equipment and drugs has increased.
"These suppliers are opportunists, they take any opportunity to supply scarce goods in other countries," said the researchers.
They point out that, although it is not possible to confirm that the products are genuine, about two-thirds of the sellers can be considered "authentic", given the ratings of users and the large number of previous sales.
More than a third of those who sell items related to coronavirus are old suppliers, who generally focus on selling drugs, while 45% sell items related to fraud, such as hacking services or counterfeit bills, the survey said.
Also according to the survey, a new online store dedicated to the sale of masks was also launched. The supplier claims to be a hospital wholesaler, stating: "Everyone needs a chance to get a mask for protection – not just medical staff!"
* Translated and republished with authorization from Decrypt Media
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