As the world deals with the ongoing chaos and death inflicted by the COVID-19 pandemic, INTERPOL is warning of a new threat to global hopes: organized crime networks are targeting COVID-19 vaccines, both physically and online.
In a global Orange Notice alert to the organization’s 194 member countries, INTERPOL stated that the pandemic has already spawned unprecedented levels of opportunities and predatory behavior. Falsification, theft, and illegal advertising of COVID-19 and flu vaccines have been an ongoing issue, as well as the sale and use of fake vaccines. As travel resumes and testing becomes even more necessary, the production and distribution of fake testing kits will also likely increase.
Closing these efforts down, according to INTERPOL, will be even more important as authentic vaccines draw nearer to approval and distribution.
“As governments are preparing to roll out vaccines, criminal organizations are planning to infiltrate or disrupt supply chains,” Jürgen Stock, INTERPOL Secretary General, said. “It is essential that law enforcement is as prepared as possible for what will be an onslaught of all types of criminal activity linked to the COVID-19 vaccine, which is why INTERPOL has issued this global warning.”
To counter this, INTERPOL urges coordination between law enforcement and health regulatory agencies. Further, to the public, it encourages care when investigating medical equipment or medicines online. Some 3,000 websites associated with online pharmacies have so far been identified by INTERPOL’s Cybercrime Unit of likely selling fake medicines and medical devices. Around 1,700 of these contained outright cyber threats, including phishing and spamming malware.