A WHOLE NEW DRUG UNDERGROUND MARKETPLACE
There is a whole new world out there –and the scary part is not many of us know about it. I am talking about the Dark Web and the availability of drugs online that are becoming a growing trend in the digital world. Only several years ago who would have guessed that e-commerce would become a selling platform for drugs and illegal substances? – and that bitcoins would be the designated currency for transactions in the darknet marketplace?
Yes, this is real. Currently, the online black marketplace offers a wide variety of drugs and drug-related paraphernalia including heroin, LSD, cocaine, marijuana, and synthetic drugs to users around the globe. Should we now say that getting drugs online is like a walk in the park? Well, it’s not quite that easy. Read on for a deeper insight onto the darknet underground drug marketplace.
THE DARK WEB: A MYSTERIOUS NEW WORLD
Let’s start by getting on the same page. Many of us have heard about the term “Dark Web” but still a veil of mystery and myth covers these words. The “dark web” is the encrypted network that exists between Tor servers and their clients. Tor was initially designed as a worldwide network of servers developed for government purposes to browse the internet anonymously. However, during the last years Tor has developed into the servers used by the online black market to sell all kinds of illegal substances.
The Tor network disguises your identity by moving your traffic across different Tor servers and encrypting that traffic making it extremely hard to trace it back to you. On the other hand, the unindexed web – meaning the databases and other content that search engines can’t crawl, is referred to as Deep Web.
DRUGS AND E-COMMERCE
For those of you who are history buffs, you have probably heard about the Silk Road of China. The Silk Road was an ancient network of trade routes that served as the main form of economic connection among regions in Asia and the Mediterranean Sea. Well, the 21th century saw the birth of a new underground Silk Road, although this time its economic purpose has slightly changed. Instead of selling fiber, agricultural products and the like, this new Silk Road sells drugs.
Ladies and gentlemen without any further ado , I present to you SilkRoadDrugs.com.
The first and widely popular online black market was called Silk Road Drugs. It was best known as a platform for selling all kinds of illicit drugs. According to the SilkRoadDrugs website, as part of the Dark Web, SilkRoadDrugs.com was operated as a Tor hidden service so that online users were able to browse it anonymously and securely without potential traffic monitoring. The site was finally shut down in 2013 and its founder is serving years in federal prison. A SilkRoad 2.0 version was released in earlier 2015 but it was soon shut down. A 3.0 version claims to be currently underway.
Presently, the site’s Anonymity Newsletter creates an opportunity for those wanting to be in the loop for trading illegal substances while keeping their anonymity status. This newsletter claims to be the vehicle to provide invaluable information to its customers on how to remain anonymous online and hide all their Deep Web activities. A great way to stay informed on how to travel the Darknet, isn’t it? As was said, it is a scary new underground world out there.
However, online drug selling doesn’t stop at SilkRoadDrugs.com. The Drug Enforcement Agency reports that the launch of this darknet marketplace led to the proliferation of illicit activities on the internet. The concept of distributed, anonymous and peer-reviewed e-commerce using digital currency originated by SilkRoadDrugs is here to stay.
IS GETTING DRUGS ONLINE LIKE A WALK IN THE PARK?
You might think that the Dark Web would be a declining market, but it is actually quite the opposite. According to the United Nations Office on Drug and Crime (UNODC), seizures of marijuana sold and delivered through the postal service have escalated 300% in the last decade – web sites will continue to use the darker areas of the internet regardless of the potential danger. The way the darknet works prevents law enforcement from tracking down and arresting drug traffickers using traditional methods so it is harder for law officials to bring down such sites.
The geographic spread of dealers selling on sites also poses a problem for law enforcement. For instance, during its best times the SilkRoad offered around 13,000 listings that originated from 10 different countries. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has admitted that no concrete data exists on the exact location of dealers selling on black market sites.
The UNODC predicts that though online drug sales are only a small part of the worldwide narcotics industry, it may be the shape of things to come. “If the past trend continues,” it noted in its World Drug Report, “online black markets have the potential to become a popular mode of trafficking in controlled substances in years to come.”
OPENING PANDORA’S BOX
Supporters of the Silk Road ecommerce site argue that SilkRoad was actually futuristic in the sense that it set the trend for drug commerce, especially marijuana, in the years to come. However, the DEA explains that purchasing over the Internet can be dangerous because it is not usually known where the products come from or what amount of chemical is on the organic material. Did SilkRoadDrugs open the Pandora’s Box in a world where drug selling and purchasing trends seem to be undergoing a revolution and adapting to the digital environment? What are the actual socioeconomic implications of such a change in the drug market place? We have seen how the term disruptive innovation has become a trend among companies and businesses that want to stay upfront in the e-commerce field; however, talking about being disruptively innovative in the illegal drug marketplace is a whole other category.
The DEA reported that while in operation, SilkRoad was used by thousands of drug dealers and other unlawful vendors to distribute hundreds of kilograms of illegal drugs and other illicit goods and services to well over a hundred thousand buyers as well as launder hundreds of millions of dollars deriving from these unlawful transactions. All these transactions resulted in earnings of $1 billion, all paid through the bitcoin cryptocurrency –the default darknet payment method that provides the anonymity that neither Paypal nor credit cards would obviously guarantee.
SO WHAT’S THE REAL PROBLEM BEHIND THE DARKNET?
SilkRoad did open a Pandora’s Box of the online drug marketplace, since after its shutdown thousands of other illicit drug sellers have popped up and threated to inundate the digital community. These online platforms bring with them the proliferation of many other non-drug related crimes on the web. Human trafficking, child pornography, and murder solicitation are just a few examples of the kind of crimes that are being hidden by the darknet.
Furthermore, children can buy illegal drugs online through the darknet. If they have an interest in drugs and technology –savvy millennials will find the way to access Tor and through it purchase any kind of illegal substance they might want. Day after day accessing the darknet gets easier, especially for this demographic. Hence, the current drug epidemic hurting not only the United States but countries around the world could be exacerbated by the proliferation of Dark Web sites and people willing to make it grow. When and will it stop? That’s indeed the question at hand.
DRUG ADDICTION IS A THREAT, BUT BLVD CAN HELP
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Drug Enforcement Agency. DEA Drug Fact Sheet. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
Drug Enforcement Agency. Manhattan U.S. Attorney Announces Arrest and Unsealing of Charges against Senior Adviser to the Operator of the “Silk Road” Website. Retrieved May 3, 2016.
Forbes. How Your Teenage Son or Daughter May Be Buying Heroin Online. Retrieved May 3, 2016.