Coronavirus for sale? Dark web ad features infected bats
- April 9, 2020
- Posted by: Kerry Tomlinson, Archer News
- Categories: Archer News, Cyber Crime, Cyber Crime, Posts with image
Ten bats — injected and infected.
Their owner, offering up the coronavirus for sale on the dark web.
At least, that’s what the ad claims.
Scam — or bioterrorism? Archer News asked the security company that found the ad if it’s real or fake.
Headlines tell us bats are behind the new coronavirus.
That’s the inspiration for an ad appearing on the dark web, the shady back alley of the Internet where traders buy and sell drugs, guns and even people.
“My father was infected with COVID-19 and at the hospital I managed to collect 1 syringe filled with blood,” the ad said, according to security company DarkOwl.
“I just inserted his blood into 10 bats. I am selling the virus.”
The cost? Not much — .005 bitcoin, about $36 dollars U.S. at last check.
“I was really horrified when I saw that,” said Mark Turnage, CEO of cybersecurity company DarkOwl, a company that monitors the dark web. “Presumably, the buyer for such a product — these bats, these infected bats — is trying to maliciously infect some other group with those bats.”
Real or Fake?
The ad is most likely a scam designed to steal money, Turnage told Archer News in an interview.
No bats, no virus. But there will be customers, he said.
“Somebody will actually buy this stuff,” Turnage said. “Somebody will try and buy it.”
“There are bad people out there. The same people are fishing for assassination services. They want to knock off their boss or they want to knock off their ex-partner,” he explained.
The seller behind the bat ad might say it’s for research purposes.
After all, scientists need to study the virus to find vaccines and cures.
But another ad from a different live virus seller makes the goal more clear, according to Dark Owl.
“Great for the coworker you don’t like. Or spread it in the ghetto if you’re like that or maybe let it loose at the country club,” the seller said.
Infected Bodily Fluids
Other ads claiming to sell infected saliva and blood are also most likely scams, Turnage said.
“COVID-19. $1000,” one ad says.
“I was infected with Coronavirus – COVID-19!!! I sell my infected blood and saliva. I do this to provide for my family financially.”
Another ad claims the seller is a Spanish public health lab doctor with two dozen COVID-19 blood samples and “infected sputum”, willing to sell for $100.
The seller says will ship the items under refrigeration “to not let the bacteria die and ensure viral life.”
He has obtained 13 vials of HIV-infected blood as well, the ad says.
Animals for Sale
Though the bat ad may not be real, the wildlife trade is alive and well on the dark web, Turnage said.
Some people buy the animals to keep as exotic pets, others buy them to eat.
“The reason that has been driven down into the dark net is because more and more governments are cracking down on it on the surface web,” he said.
“We know that the origins of [the new coronavirus] are in the wildlife market in Wuhan, China,” Turnage added. “It’s exactly the virtual versions of those wildlife markets that we’re seeing on the dark net.”
Questions? Pay Up
The seller behind the bat ad says he won’t answer questions unless you pay .001 bitcoin, or about $7 — a clever ploy if you want to make cash off of curious customers.
But in this case, a scam is a better option than live, infected animals and a contagious virus sold for possible use as a weapon.
Turnage’s company monitors the dark web for law enforcement agencies and governments, providing reports on what they find.
He said from time to time, some seemingly farfetched ads turn out to be real. But most are not, and cyber criminals are using the pandemic to scam as many people as possible.
“We have no way of knowing. And I highly doubt that anybody is actually shipping infected blood or infected saliva,” he said.
“All I want is your bitcoin,” he explained, taking the role of the cyber crook. “Because once I have it, you’re never going to find it. You’re never going to see it again.”
Main image: Flying bat. Image: JAH/istock