(Reuters) – US retailers and pharmacies such as Walgreens and CVS Health are preparing for a new round of "cure" attacks by scalpers in hopes of speeding up the COVID-19 vaccine meeting when they hit the Sony PlayStation 5s and Nike sneakers.  For over a decade, retailers have struggled with so-called "scalper bots", programmed to cut digital lines and snap up products with limited supply within milliseconds after they are released, which are sold at significant mark-ups.
The coronavirus pandemic exacerbated the problem as the boom of online shopping expanded the views of scalpers to new categories from fitness equipment to essential items such as toilet paper and detergents. In the UK, scalpers using bots have also taken the place of online food deliveries reserved for the elderly at risk.
The Joe Biden administration said this week that it will soon begin distributing approximately 1
Security companies tracking this activity are now warning that US retailers and pharmacies hired to play a major role in the spread of the COVID-19 vaccine could be the next target for cure attacks. when they start distributing as early as February 11th.
These concerns stem from problems that retailers have faced during the past holiday season, when the latest PlayStation and Microsoft Xbox consoles were nearly impossible to find because scalers attacked major retailers.
“Queue jumpers branch out. Their tools are now used to target other in-demand items, says Matt Gracey-McMinn, head of threat research at the bot-security company Netacea.
In December, Walmart told Reuters most of the "significantly higher" traffic for the consoles. came from bots and that the company had to carry out after-sales audits, cancel orders made by bots and make these products available to ordinary consumers.
Another attack such as the one encountered by retailers during the holiday shopping season could further complicate a delicate process in which only 32 million doses have been administered since federal regulators granted emergency approval for two vaccines in December, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Not Enough Places
In recent weeks, people shared horror stories on social media networks to try to secure vaccination meetings from government sources, with some blaming bots for website crashes and stolen slots.
Pri ship sector binds for technical problems. "The Walgreens team works to ensure that only qualified and qualified patients will have access to a vaccine appointment," said Jim Cameli, Walgreens Boots Alliance's Chief Information Officer.
“To do this, security measures such as cure detection and prevention will play key roles in delivering this critical service to patients. "
CVS said its program could counteract attacks. “Our vaccination meeting website has a warehouse defense that includes features for detecting automated cyber attacks, such as botnets. These features, along with our application design and user input validation, enable us to validate legitimate users, says a CVS Health spokesman.
Asked if he was worried about bots attacking COVID-19 vaccine appointments, Walmart said it would "focus on safety and all necessary restraint steps to help us provide fair and equitable vaccinations."
Walmart said in a statement. blog post on Tuesday that from the end of next week, when the retailer receives doses from the federal government at select pharmacies in 22 states, vaccinated customers can use a scheduling tool to lock appointments online "while the assignment lasts."
Such sites do However, retailers have easier targets for bots than the states that currently handle vaccine times, two cybersecurity experts said.
Securing meetings by going through local authorities requires a more complicated process of navigating different websites, making it more difficult for both people and bots to complete the process.
The complexity of securing government vaccine clinics n, even without explicit evidence that bots manipulated the process, inspired some programmers to create website monitoring programs such as Georgia Wax, Visualping and the NYC Vaccine List, which alert people to available meetings at the local level for free.
"It would be difficult for anyone to really make a lot of money attacking states because each county is different," said Ben Warlick, an Atlanta-based lawyer who has written free surveillance robots to help people get the vaccine. "Creating a large nationwide system would just be too difficult to set up."
But for retailers, the threat is real.
"Several of our customers have come to us worried about the frightening dilemma they will eventually face: how do we handle vaccine meetings without being raised by automated bot attacks?" Said Edward Roberts, specialist at security company Imperva.
He added: "The dust will explode when vaccines are available to all citizens."
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