We are in a similar situation today, where there is a clear answer to the identity of the most valuable product in the world: a COVID-19 vaccine. The world is generally united around creating and sharing that single most valuable product. On the flip side, unlike the A-bomb, there will also be an increasing black market for the vaccine, because it will be relatively easy to steal and sell, thanks to the dark web, online pharmacies and other channels. there will likely be multiple generations of the vaccine from different manufacturers, ensuring that there will be no shortage of opportunities for black marketeers to get their hands on the “newest” most valuable product in the world. Considering the value of a vaccine or treatment for COVID, it is unquestionable that nation states are putting resources in place toward the acquisition of any data related to it. Most of the important work related to vaccine development is occurring in academic and medical research facilities. Unfortunately, those institutions have traditionally had poor security and cyber defense postures. This is precipitated by poor budget allocation and often the cultural and open philosophy of those institutions. As a result, it is likely that the nation state offensives will be successful in obtaining the wanted data or recipes related to COVID cures. If the data and recipes were compromised by a foreign adversary, that could be used to corner arkets on ingredients, components and tools. The result could be price extracting the world market for the drug or withholding the drug altogether. How will the black market for a COVID-19 vaccine develop? To gain some perspective, it’s useful to look at a recent parallel: the black market for hydroxychloroquine. There was an enormous amount of hype around hydroxychloroquine as a possible COVID-19 treatment earlier this year, tough stocks of the drug as some doctors dramatically ramped up prescriptions. In April, during the height of the hype, our security analysts found dark web sites selling hydroxychloroquine for as much as. These were long-standing and highly regarded sellers (buyers’ rate dark web sellers just like they rate sellers on eBay), so we had a high confidence level they were offering the actual drug. There also were many scam sites selling fake versions of the drug, or even raw hydroxychloroquine powder. One of the key clues of a scam is when the seller has a new account and few. Another clue is when sellers claim to have very large stocks of the drug, since it’s unlikely they could coordinate a massive theft of it. The expected black market for authentic COVID-19 vaccines and cures will likely develop in the same way as other prescription drug black markets through “diversion” of the drugs off the pharmaceutical supply chain. This means drugs will be stolen at the manufacturer, distributor and retail stages of the chain, or in transit. The most common channel for diversion is insiders’ people who can walk out of the building with the drugs, or even approve bogus orders or prescriptions. These thefts can be pure freelance jobs, where an insider has the technical knowhow or connections to sell stolen prescriptions on the dark web, internet pharmacies or other channels. More commonly, though, they are the work of organized crime. The insider is still the threat but does not participate in the marketing of the stolen material. This is a much larger problem than the freelancer scenario, since virtually any insider with appropriate access has the skills to steal medication for organized criminals no need to even know what the dark web is.
(-The writer is a student at international Islamic university Islamabad BBA marketing .)