Dark Web Markets are getting more similar to traditional organized crime features, the latest reports from the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) says. According to the institute, drug dealers based in Australia are the most common users of the “system per capita” than any other nationalities.
The NDARC’s Drugs Trend Project, which has been monitoring dark net markets since the year of 2013, reports an emergence in extortion, server attacks and “conflict over digital territory” between online marketplaces and third parties over the past 12 months. Joe Van Buskirk, research officer at NDARC made this statement about the dark net markets in general:
“Because of the anonymizing features of the Tor network, there is no concern for legality. Any sort of substances can be sold.”
According to the research, the most common drug on the marketplaces is cannabis followed by pharmaceuticals and MDMA. Van Buskirk added this:
“Marketplaces on the dark net operate in a very similar way to eBay. They have a feedback system where both buyers and retailers are rated on the efficiency of the transaction, and the quality of the substance.”
A long-term user of dark web marketplaces was also asked about the topic. She was initially shocked by the high functionality and stability of the websites:
“Going on for the first time I was surprised by how legitimate these websites look, they look like eBay. I would think anyone who is determined to buy drugs online could do it with relative ease,” she said.
According to Van Buskirk, as the awareness among people grows towards dark net markets, so the number of buyers will grow.
An estimate was made by the FBI at the time of Silk Road’s closure, the “original dark web drug marketplace”, it generated $US79.8 million income for the site’s founder Ross Ulbricht. In February 2015, Evolution, the largest marketplace on the dark web at the time, suddenly shutdown with the website owners exit scamming along with the users’ and vendors’ money.
“Third parties are coming on to marketplaces and making a digital threat to take down the marketplace temporarily, they continue these attacks until the marketplace pays them money. They also blackmail moderators with identifying information, and extort money out of them,” Van Buskirk said.
A series of Ddos attacks made several dark net markets unaccessbile for customers and vendors for a significant amount of time last year. While the websites have stabilized in the past six months, Van Buskirk suspects extortion is still taking place, however, it is “being managed differently”.
“It is similar to an organized crime approach that happens in real world crime networks. But really, it could be anyone who has a good knowledge of technology,” he said about the identity of the extortionists.
Van Buskirk also made this statement:
“As more people see how much money can be made, more opportunistic methods are being used. And that can be seen in the range of products too,” he said.
Tony Cooke, NSW’s Drug Squad Commander and Detective Superintendent, stated there is “no doubt” that online drug retailers are involved with organized crime networks.
“It is another means by which organized crime sells drugs into the community,” he said.
Here are some facts about the dark web and Australians:
- Australians are the most represented nationality of drug retailers on the dark web proportional to population
- 10% of surveyed regular psychostimulant drug users had bought drugs over the dark web in the past year
- Those purchasing drugs over the dark web were more likely to be male and under the age of 25
- Psychostimulant users buying off the dark web tended to use a greater variety of drugs at a greater frequency compared to other users.