Drugs marketed as coronavirus vaccines are being sold on the dark web for as much as $24,000 each.
Research from the Australian National University found coronavirus-related products have flooded dark net markets following the outbreak of the virus.
An analysis of 20 markets on the dark web in April found underground sales of personal-protective equipment, ventilators, anti-viral medicines, test kits and even drugs being touted as vaccines.
The research, commissioned by the Australian Institute of Criminology, looked at dark web markets over the course of one day, when 645 listings were recorded.
Of those markets, 12 were found to be selling coronavirus products, three of them making up 85 per cent of all coronavirus listings.
Researcher Rod Broadhurst said many were trying to profit off the coronavirus and related anxieties.
"For some people out there, this pandemic is a criminal opportunity where they can cash in on fear and shortages," Professor Broadhurst said.
"We think we will see more of that and we need some basic monitoring to start shutting it down.
"We found unsafe vaccines, repurposed antivirals, which are in very short supply, and quite a lot of bulk PPE on the dark web."
Researchers were unable to authenticate the products being offered for sale as they could not purchase the items.
However, Professor Broadhurst said those products being advertised represented a large health risk.
"The biosecurity hazardous products are the most dangerous because some are marketed as if they have been leaked from real trials," he said.
"But they could be fake and we don't know what they're made from."
Of the more than 800 listings discovered on the dark web, nearly half were for PPE such as surgical masks.
A third of listings were antivirals, while supposed vaccines made up 10 per cent.
One vaccine, listed as being shipped from the US, was advertised for sale at $24,598, while another from China was being sold for $23,000.
Professor Broadhurst said the vaccines being sold were alarming.
"Fake vaccines could assist in the spread of the virus because users may behave as if they are immune but nevertheless become exposed to the virus," he said.
"The premature release of vaccines undergoing animal or human trial would also misguide users as to immunity but may also impact on the success of these crucial clinical trials."
Australian Institute of Criminology deputy director Dr Rick Brown said the findings of the research would help government responses to the virus.
"The sale of fake vaccines and other compromised medical items poses a real risk to the health and safety of the public and needs to be dealt with swiftly," he said.
"These results will assist our law enforcement partners in tackling this concerning issue."
Our COVID-19 news articles relating to public health and safety are free for anyone to access. However, we depend on subscription revenue to support our journalism. If you are able, please subscribe here. If you are already a subscriber, thank you for your support. If you're looking to stay up to date on COVID-19, you can also sign up for our twice-daily digest here.