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Fake vaccine passports spell trouble for reviving travel

As borders begin to open and confidence in travel picks up, authorities are concerned by a spate of fake COVID-19 vaccination certificates available for sale online for “peanuts”.


Proving you’re vaccinated against COVID-19 will likely be an inevitable part of future travel and ultimately reviving economies. 



But according to cyber experts, there are people who are trying to circumvent laws by creating false documents.


“We’ve seen hundreds of websites on the dark web where these documents are being the price of peanuts,” Beenu Arora, founder of cyber intelligence firm Cyble, told the Thomson Reuters Foundation in an online interview.


The fake vaccination papers first started appearing in late February, but Arora said the number of listings has “mushroomed” and each document can be bought for as little as US$12.


The forgeries have now crept from the dark web to regular websites and e-commerce platforms, Chad Anderson, a senior security researcher at online threat intelligence firm DomainTools said.


The United States’ Federal Bureau of Investigation has urged citizens to refrain from posting photos of their vaccination cards on social media, claiming that forgers can use these to create false documents. 


Oded Vanunu of cyber-security company Check Point recommends vaccination cards should be digitally signed with encrypted keys using a QR code system.


This has already been adopted in Israel and there are plans for a digital pass in South Korea and the European Union, but Vanunu said that for international travel to resume, countries will need to share data. Hmm, let’s see how that one plays out.

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Published: 9 April 2021

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