The environment of anti-darknet law enforcement has changed rapidly over the years to match criminal agility.
The modern criminal has dramatically shifted their operations from street-level vending and operation to online sites. The vast advancement in technology has gone a long way to equip threat actors with sufficient power to respond to all manner of law enforcement activities targeting their livelihoods.
The above reality is a sharp contrast to the fact that improvements in cybersecurity are expected to make police departments equally tech competitive to the criminal networks they seek to destroy.
Today, dark web drug networks are thriving online due to their tech-savvy nature that enables them to maintain user anonymity on the internet, thus allowing them to continuously elude law enforcement.
Report: Darknet Drug Networks Will Always Elude Law Enforcement Agencies
A report by the Australian National University (ANU) has revealed a worrying concern for stakeholders looking to dismantle the international criminal network – the sale of banned drugs by darknet-hosted criminal networks will not stop any time soon.
In proving the complexity of darknet drug operations across the hidden web, the ANU study made a clear concession that the online way on drugs is bound to fail despite the massive time and resources that law enforcement agencies have invested in disrupting the darknet drug networks that deal in lethal synthetic opioids.
The ANU report discovered a reality of continuous innovation and motivation by cybercriminals who are driven by the need to gain profits by formulating adaptive darknet business models that replace obsolete ones.
To arrive at their conclusion, the researchers scanned the dark web to establish trends in measuring the changes in drug listings and availability of marked substances according to the numbers of vendors selling the opioids.
The researchers tracked eight of the most dominant markets from January to December 2019. The sites included major actors such as Apollon, Empire, Dream, Nightmare, Tochka, Berlusconi, Valhalla, and Wall Street.
According to the report, in April 2019, researchers had discovered the rise of three new platforms – Agartha, Dream Alt and Samsara – that had been established to fill in the gaps left by Wall Street and Valhalla markets that had been seized by law enforcement.
Much of the report’s findings were pegged on the dark web’s intrinsic characteristics. The hidden web offers user anonymity through the sets of online platforms that can only be accessed via a specialized browser.
The anonymity and privacy accorded to dark web users has made it very easy for interested parties to scan the markets when shopping for synthetic opioids like fentanyl – a lethal designer substance that’s many more times potent than heroin – and Carfentanil, a drug originally formulated for big-game sedation.
According to the report, the spate of dark web takedowns and trans-boundary law enforcement operations have only served to destabilize the availability of such illicit substances. The researchers likened the situation to a game of cat-and-mouse where markets stay agile in the wake of all the law enforcement hurdles that get thrown their way.
Mainly, it appears that all darknet market seizures are always followed by the appearance of new platforms that take different forms and approaches to their predecessors. Case in point, clear evidence exists to show the cybercriminal ability to find new alternatives once their preferred platforms close down.
Today, we are witnessing the rise of several small-sized niche markets that cater to specific groups of darknet drug dealers as opposed to the massive platforms that were designed to accommodate general criminal interests.
Automated botnet markets, such as the 2014 Random Darknet Shopper, and similar market products have become commonplace to dark web drug networks looking to elude law enforcement efforts.