The pandemic of the new coronavirus and associated public concerns have become a breeding ground for fraudsters. Phishing campaigns promoting fake e-shops that try to elicit users’ personal information or money are spreading across the web. Ads on overpriced or non-functional medical devices have been spreading on social networks.
Only a few days after internet security company ESET warned of fraudulent online practices related to the spread of COVID-19, a new e-shop with hygienic masks and thermometers appeared in Slovakia and the Czech Republic. In fact, counterfeit merchants collected shoppers’ personal information in an unencrypted order form, to which even a less experienced hacker could get access.
Sales of medical devices of dubious quality also started. Amazon has banned the sale of more than one million counterfeit products in recent weeks, claiming to heal or prevent the spread of coronavirus. The world’s largest online store has decided to withdraw tens of thousands of offers of extremely overpriced surgical masks and respirators.
Fraudulent and disadvantageous advertisements are disseminated through chain emails, but also through paid social media advertising. That is why Facebook claimed to have begun to combat such practices as well. The company announced that it will delete advertisements of companies selling surgical masks and other medical devices that are suspected of misusing the current crisis. Nevertheless, sponsored posts of mask sellers continue to appear on Facebook.
Thus, the severity of the pandemic situation again pointed out the lack of vigorous and effective action by social network operators and the vulnerability of the general public in the virtual sphere. The fight against disinformation about coronavirus and the largescale sale of low-quality medical devices, which remains only at the level of declarations, can have a real impact on the health and life of the population.
STRATPOL Memos is a project which on a weekly basis provides a short overview of the most important selected moments of Euro-Atlantic security and related areas. Our goal is to provide brief and informative comments with short analysis putting news into a broader context.
Responsible editor Matúš Jevčák.
Author: Adam Sitko
The text has not undergone language revision.