Cybercriminals cash in on COVID crisis with plasma trade on dark web

The plasma of a cured patient is used as a part of treatment as it contains antibodies against the virus

Dark web is infamous for illegal trade and activities across the world. Image: iStock (representational)

The Maharashtra Home Ministry has been informed about the possible instances of the illegal trade of plasma (a liquid component of blood) collected from cured COVID-19 patients on the dark web.

Announcing this, State Home Minister Anil Deshmukh told reporters the state cyber cell had begun its investigation with the information available to them.

The plasma of a cured COVID-19 patient is used as a part of treatment as it contains antibodies against the virus. So, cybercriminals have begun the trade of plasma on the dark web, officials said.

The dark web is a part of the World Wide Web or Internet that is intentionally hidden below the surface web, a part of the internet that is accessible to normal users. It also requires specific softwares or configurations to access information through the dark web, which is infamous for illegal trade and activities across the world.

“We haven’t received any formal complaint as on date. However, if any case is reported, we will take immediate action,” senior cyber cell inspector Jayram Paygude told The Federal.

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Explaining the modus operandi of cybercriminals, Gaurav Jachak, a cyber crime lawyer, said they could easily trace a person. “They breach into government databases and collect information about citizens. Once they get the information of target individuals (in this case, COVID-infected people), they start individual tracing,” he said.

“A person then gets a spam email, through which one’s IP address and location are traced. After that, the person gets a call in the name of an insurance company or a cohort agent who establishes personal contact with the person. Then they put forth the offers of their illegal businesses, thus phishing a person into the scam,” he explained.

In most cases, people facing financial crisis are targeted and many of them fall for it due to greed, said Jachak. Usually, bitcoins are used in such transactions.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), the country reported 27,248 cybercrime cases in 2018. Of these, 15,051 crimes had been committed with the intent of fraud.

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