ACCORDING to the founder of Kyiv-based crypto exchange Kina, over US$26 million (RM110 million) in cryptocurrency has been raised by the Ukrainian government since the beginning of the war.

Check Point Research (CPR) researchers, who frequently scan the Dark Net have spotted several advertisements and sites, which aim at raising money for the Ukrainian people, mostly on a cryptocurrency basis.

CPR’s investigation shows that while some of these sites are part of the official Ukrainian government fund raising campaign, others appear to be questionable, and raise a concern that once again there are cyber criminals behind them, leveraging the current crisis for fraudulent activities.

Dark Net’s playground

Though it is not illegal to access and use the Dark Net, many of the activities within it appear to be illegitimate sales and transactions.

During the pandemic, CPR researches uncovered Corona- related ads and mini sites dedicated to sellers offering anything from fake Covid-19 certificates to vaccines and test results.

In this article, CPR gives examples of advertisements found on the Dark Net, both, legitimate and questionable, asking for money to help victims of the Russia-Ukraine war.

“Marina is requesting assistance”

CPR came across a Dark Net web page (onion) that is requesting donations for “Marina”. A short description states that “Marina” and her children are trying to escape Ukraine due to the “very bad situation” and are asking for money, to be donated in cryptocurrency. The appeal also states, “Every coin helps”.

While the QR codes attached are addresses to cryptocurrency wallets, a quick check shows that the main image on the site seems to be taken from a newspaper article from a German international news broadcaster called Deutsche Welle. No other information is provided, raising questions about the overall authenticity and legitimacy of the page.

Cryptocurrency now legitimate central coin

A quick scan of more websites on the Dark Net shows more mini-sites containing requests for donations. Some redirect to a government’s official legitimate site, calling out for funds, but some link to either void links or empty pages. Some sites link back to what appears to be fraudulent websites.

“Defend Ukraine” with crypto donations

Some of the sites referenced on the Dark Net actually point to reliable websites. One that stands out is a website calling people to “Help the Ukrainian army and their wounded, as well as the families and children caught in the developing conflict”.

It also refers to the “Defend Ukraine” Twitter account. The domain was registered on Feb 16, a week before the war in Ukraine started. The site itself is simple and contains a list of different organisations and non-governmental organisations in Ukraine, as well as cryptocurrency – Bitcoin, Ethereum and USDT.

In times of crisis and extreme circumstances, like this war, there is always a proliferation of cyber criminals trying to leverage the situation, causing an increase in fraudulent activities.

In a recent report, CPR released data on the increase in cyber-attacks that researchers have observed since the beginning of the war. Attacks on the Ukraine government and its military sector surged by a staggering 196% in the first three days of combat. Not surprisingly, the attackers are now finding their way to the Dark Net in search of further offensive activities.

Beware of where you send your money

CPR urges potential donors who are seeking to help the Ukrainians, and in general, and everyone donating to any cause, to beware of the links they go to and the websites they use to send money. The Dark Net is usually not the right platform for fundraising unless you are tech savvy and know your way within it.

The CPR teams are constantly monitoring the developing situation in search of additional potential threats that may surface and will update accordingly.

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