A virus that has emerged in a single city, Wuhan, sickened more than 1.3 million people in China. At least 81,000 people died as of Wednesday morning and the virus was identified in at least 177 countries. The virus can be scary, but it doesn’t discriminate whatever your life status, age, ethnicity, religion, gender, or nation, the virus can still get you.
Indeed, the coronavirus pandemic has brought out the best in humans while bringing out the worst in some others at the same time. Some members of the online community have taken to the above process by seeking to capitalize on the spread of COVID-19.
A recent Elliptic report showed that members of the dark net were selling essential materials needed to combat the virus in return for cryptocurrencies. A detailed search found that products like masks and coronavirus kits were being sold via the virtual asset platform, like hot cakes.
According to the research, hundreds of listings have appeared on darknet markets for N95 respirator masks. These masks are also recommended by the CDC but the US mainland has seen a large shortage of it. Media has pointed out that the United States was one of the worst prepared to handle the crisis, with multiple doctors pointing out severe shortages. The report from Elliptic added:
” The listings shown below offer N95s in bulk at around $1.75 per mask – a surprisingly low mark-up on retail prices. Compare this to the prices charged by vendors on legitimate marketplaces such as Amazon or eBay, where N95 masks have been listed for sale for upwards of $10 each. Of course with all darknet market listings posted by pseudonymous vendors, there is a chance that they are fraudulent, and that buyers don’t end up getting what they paid for. “
A third of the sellers on the darknet typically dabble in drugs or paraphernalia related to drugs, with another 45 percent offering fraud-related products like counterfeit currencies. Another search engine named Recon was introduced to the darknet users which has indexed several coronavirus listings online.
One of the most surprising developments has been the creation of a website dedicated to the sale of N95 masks. The site was available at coronaygwebegpd6.onion and was referred to as the ‘Mask Shop.’ Investigators also found listings of COVID-19 test strips that were sold for $2 each. This payment was to be made using cryptocurrencies, preferably Bitcoin.
When people visit these darknet sites, they have a variety of choices to choose from in the coronavirus catalogue. Some of the sellers are also reviewed on the website, which has shown that they are well-established players. Besides masks, websites also sold chemicals such as chloroquine, an untested coronavirus miracle cure advertised by Donald Trump.
The drug has been getting unnecessary coverage because of the President’s words, forcing even India to buckle and agree to send large quantities of the drug to the US. Websites on the darknet offer chloroquine pills from the rates of $300 upto $500 for 150 pills.
The lockdowns across the world have also caused dealers to sell vast quantities of narcotics online. This was usual business in the darknet world as narcotics was one of the major driving forces of the industry. The change in market trade cam amidst governments across the world rushing to secure the supply of essentials, especially for those at the frontlines. Some European officials have even claimed that the battle between countries for supplies has begun to look like the “Wild West”.