By Derek Middlemiss, Head of Security Solutions Engineering EMEA at Check Point Software (www.checkpoint.com)
Across Europe it’s already been announced that many countries are demanding vaccination certificates or proof of negative coronavirus tests in order to enter restaurants, cinemas or events. And following suit, it was recently revealed in England that such evidence will be required to enter nightclubs from the end of September.
However, Check Point Research has found increasing demand for fake certificates being sold on Telegram and the Darknet. In Europe, the number of users registered into communication channels with fake certificates multiplied by 10 in just a few days, and some of these channels have up to 500,000 members.
Customers could be either people who have tested positive, refused to take a test or are unwilling to have the vaccine. It could also be down to the exploitation of innocent users looking for information and guidance, who are lured to fraudulent or suspicious domains, thinking they are genuine.
Up to now, these certificates have mostly been used for travel and our research team first reported finding them back in March. But it’s hard to ignore a new surge in demand when there are new rules coming out around entry to venues.
It’s a huge concern for hospitality staff, especially for nightclubs, as bogus certificates will give them a false sense of security. Latest figures in the UK show that 35% of 18 to 30-year-olds have not yet had their first jab. However, this is the age group that is most likely to be visiting nightclubs and so something needs to be done to prevent them from being attracted into buying a fake.
How can venue staff tell the difference? I’m not sure that you can. MPs were recently advised by UK border staff that it’s almost impossible to recognise forged documents. Until the government comes together and acts quickly to combat the increased sales of fake certificates on Telegram and the Darknet, the requirement to show proof of vaccination will be rather futile.