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Darknet, online underground market thrives in COVID health crisis

Three major types of COVID-19 offerings have emerged on darknet markets since February.

Cyber Society

Darknet, online underground market thrives in COVID health crisis

The darknet markets, also known as online underground markets, are thriving in the world riddled with a health crisis brought about by COVID-19. In these so-called online underground markets, one can virtually find anything from drugs to fake documentation as well as counterfeit currency. They have also ventured into COVID-related commodities such as face shields and masks etc.

According to the Darknet Analysis project by the Evidence-Based Cybersecurity Research Group at Georgia State University, three major types of COVID-19 offerings have emerged on darknet markets since February. These are protective gear, medications and services that help people commit fraud. Researchers were also able to establish that vendors of illegal commodities have formed dedicated group-chats and channels on encrypted instant messaging platforms like WhatsApp, Telegram, Wickr and ICQ. And with several vendors selling protective gowns, COVID-19 test kits, thermometers and hand sanitizers, the report brings the effectiveness of this gear to the fore. There is no way to judge these products as underground vendors do not disclose their products’ sources. And this could be risky to consumers.

COVID-19 related commodities

The researchers highlight that the underground vendors offered facemasks for sale at a time when its demand was very high and people were literally scrambling to find facemasks for personal use. At a time of emmense shortage, the vendors posted ads of large quantities of facemasks for sale. The report said that given the global shortage of facemasks at the time, the research team found it difficult to understand how the vendor in Thailand could offer so many for sale. There was a possibility that they sold used facemasks. Soon enough, authorities in Thailand cracked down an operation that washed, ironed and boxed used facemasks and supplied them to underground markets.


In regards to fraud, the report says that COVID-19 related fraud could have grave consequences for individuals whose identities have been stolen and used to apply for government benefits or loans, including the loss of future government assistance and damage to credit scores. And fraudulent requests for COVID relief funds using stolen personal information also puts additional strain on federal, state and local governments.

Drug supply and distribution

The European Monitoring Center for Drugs and Drug Addiction special report, COVID-19 and Drugs: Drug Supply via Darknet Markets, found that cannabis, cocaine and other stimulant drugs represented the majority of all European darknet drug sales, with Germany, the United Kingdom and the Netherlands playing a key role with respect to drug supply on darknet markets.

COVID-19 has certainly given the darknet to thrive in a world that is now full of uncertainty.

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