How accessible are drugs through the dark web?
This week there have been many reports in the media regarding the dark web and how consumers are using this service to buy drugs. Before we look in to how this is happening we have outlined below what the dark web is and why dealers use it.
What is the dark web?
The dark web is an encrypted network of websites that are publically visible, but their IP addresses are hidden. The sites are not accessible through search engines and require specific software, configurations or authorisation to access. It is also known as the deep web, invisible web or hidden web.
Why sell on the dark web?
When these sites are set up, they cannot be traced back to the host as their identity and location are hidden. This means they can use their site for anything they wish, including criminal activity. Recently there has been a surge in the amount of drugs being bought on the dark web. Once purchased, drugs are sent to the customer in the post – the same way as buying anything online.
How prevalent is this in the UK?
The UK is recognised as the European Leader in dark web drug dealings which is recorded to generate £16 million every month. This is relatively small compared to offline sales of £1.7 billion per month, but the figure will continue to increase as the ‘service’ offered by online drug traffickers grows.
Research undertaken in 2016 found that 1 in 5 people who responded to the global drug survey said that they had purchased drugs over the dark web. The market is well known to law enforcement and investigations have taken place across the UK, Europe & America. In 2013 the FBI managed to shut down Silk Road, one of the biggest online drug distributors in America. The founder of the site was arrested and was handed 5 life sentences. Despite the threat of lengthy prosecutions and ongoing investigations, this does not seem to deter the online sellers.
BBC Newsbeat Investigation
Newsbeat reporters investigated the presence of online drug sellers, obtaining MDMA, Spice and cannabis. In order to make the purchase they had to pay with the online currency Bitcoin and then wait 1 week for the products to arrive.
1 week later (after packaging and processing through couriers and collection points) the package ended up with the Newsbeat reporters. An ecstasy pill arrived hidden inside a packet of Haribo, this being just one tactic sellers use to hide the contents of what they are posting. As It is illegal for a postal worker to open suspect parcels, there is not much they can do to check what they are delivering.
What is being done?
Across the UK, the Home Office is planning to spend £1.9 billion on cyber security over the next 5 years to tackle the selling & distribution of drugs over the web. With the high levels of accessibility associated with online selling, the potential is there for anyone across the globe to purchase illegal substances. Heavy investment is necessary in order to tackle this problem and stop the issue from growing further.
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