Opioid Premiums, Jobseekers and Vaccines: Covid-19 Fuels Darknet Markets in a Different Way
The impact of the Covid-19 pandemic has found its way onto the deep web and during the last few months, researchers have found a great number of individuals turning to darknet markets (DNMs) for employment. The organization Check Point Research has recorded a rising trend of people looking for jobs on hacking forums and DNMs. Additionally, alleged versions of the coronavirus vaccines from the top manufacturers are being sold on DNMs alongside vaccination records.
Mass Darknet Market Closures in 2020 Invoked Opioid Product Premiums
In 2020, a great number of darknet markets (DNMs) went dark by either voluntarily closing, exit scamming, or getting busted by global law enforcement. Despite the loss of many DNMs, the vast amount of spontaneous underground markets saw record revenues in 2020. However, the numerous amounts of DNMs disappearing have led to an increased demand for opioids. A new report from the Australian National University (ANU) shows that the effects of global law enforcement takedowns and other types of DNM closures have decreased the accessibility for opioids.
The study by ANU was led by Emeritus Professor Roderic Broadhurst, and for 352 days the team collected data from DNMs like Berlusconi, Valhalla, Wall Street, Apollon, Empire, Dream, Nightmare, and Tochka. Broadhurst noted that DNM operators, after closing shop, simply create another illicit shop again with higher prices on opioid products. Essentially, the coronavirus pandemic lockdowns and travel restrictions fueled DNM operations.
“Since the pandemic, everybody’s going online,” Professor Broadhurst said. “Markets have been boosted by increased demand by buyers and vendors able to supply or substitute products such as opioids, partly to get around problems with lockdowns, and border closures.”
Covid-19 Vaccines and Vaccination Records Advertised on Darknet Markets
The Covid-19 pandemic has not only put a stronghold on opioid sales, but researchers have also noticed that ostensible vaccines meant for the coronavirus are being sold on DNMs on the deep web. A number of reports have been published on this subject in the last few weeks, and just recently Kaspersky researchers published a comprehensive report on a number of coronavirus vaccine and vaccination record adverts found on darknet marketplaces.
Kaspersky said that while scraping data across 15 markets they found advertisements for the top three Covid-19 vaccines. Of course, the legitimacy of the Pfizer/Biontech, Astrazeneca, and Moderna products being sold on DNMs is quite questionable, to say the least.
Additionally, Kaspersky’s team found generic or unnamed Covid-19 vaccines being sold on these markets as well. Of course, Kaspersky researchers recommend not buying anything on DNMs and the research team doesn’t think it’s a good idea to purchase a so-called vaccine online either.
“Over the past year, there have been a whole host of scams exploiting the COVID topic, and many of them have been successful,” Dmitry Galov, a security expert at Kaspersky said. Right now, not only are people selling vaccine doses, but they’re also selling vaccination records— pieces of paper that can help you travel freely. It’s important for users to be cautious of any ‘deal’ related to the pandemic, and, of course, it’s never a good idea to buy a vaccine from the darknet.”
‘Breaking Bad:’ Check Point Research Notices an Uptrend in the Number of People Looking for DNM Work
Recent research reports have found that Covid-19 has also fueled DNMs in another way. A study published last week by Check Point Research called “Breaking bad: desperate job seekers turn to the Darknet and hacking forums for opportunities,” explains how people are looking for employment from DNM operators.
Check Point has noticed a rise in the number of people engaged in looking for jobs on DNMs. Unemployment levels have risen and Check Point documented that there are continued lockdowns in Italy, Greece, Spain, France, and other nations.
“Within this backdrop, Check Point Research noticed a growing trend that began towards the end of 2020 and continues to develop in 2021– people are turning to the darknet and various hacking forums to offer their services and availability for work for any kind of work available, including less than legitimate roles,” the study details. “From the beginning of 2021, we noticed that there was an increase in the number of individuals taking the initiative to send out ads seeking work. In fact, we started observing 10-16 new ads being placed monthly in select hacking forums,” the Check Point Research study adds.
Check Point highlights one individual who is looking for employment and says:
This jobseeker, who says he is in a difficult financial situation, is offering to work in the sphere of ‘financial cash-out, DDOS, security’ and promises not to ask too many stupid questions.
The researchers surmise that because of “desperation,” jobseekers are willing to participate in DNM activities even if they are illegal. Check Point Research says that countries need to realize that the shadow economy is growing under the backdrop of the gloomy economy.
“From our research,” Check Point concludes. “You can see that people from different parts of the world are offering their abilities, expertise, and availability on these platforms. As countries grapple with the realities of a struggling global economy, it is important they also turn their attention to the underground job marketplace that is growing.”
What do you think about the effects Covid-19 has had on darknet markets (DNMs)? Let us know what you think about this subject in the comments section below.
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Author: Jamie Redman