Thanks to darknet anonymity, sites hosted by the internet’s underground have provided an ample environment for the proliferation of global criminal enterprises.
From drug and weapon purchases to cybercrime, the dark web has played host to a long list of illicit activities that continue to rely on physically-available infrastructure for economic feasibility.
Point to note, while the dark web was not primarily created for unlawful activity, it is illegal to visit the darknet platforms that have been created for illicit reasons.
However, the above reality does not seem to be standard thought across societies, with most people not understanding risks that are disposed to darknet surfers. The fact that darknet websites have been coupled with online anonymity tools has created a false sense of safety for people looking to visit dark web sites.
While a section of users think that the dark web is beyond the reach of local and international law enforcement agencies, global police departments have been using a number of techniques to identify and convict darknet buyers and vendors – right from “following the money” to monitoring the postal system, and even analyzing the wealth of user data acquired during dark web shutdowns.
The following section will provide an explanation about what you need to consider when visiting the dark web to purchase illicit goods.
The Postal System Can Expose You
Interestingly, the dark web’s exponential technological advances have not freed users from the need to employ the postal system for physical deliveries on goods ordered online.
When a user orders a consignment of drugs from the dark web, they will need the services of a courier entity to physically deliver product to their location. Usually, darknet drug dealers use meticulous packaging techniques to ensure “stealth” as far as parcels-for-shipment are concerned.
What prospective dark web buyers need to understand is that the postal system is not fool proof as global customs officials have become increasingly aware of the methods used by dealers to conceal packages and move them across local and international borders.
In fact, it turns out that post boxes and offices have now become ideal surveillance grounds for police departments looking to identify the real faces behind illicit darknet purchases. This reality is not just restricted to law enforcement agents since post office employees have become particularly helpful in identifying the origin and contents of intercepted packages.
As a case example, the September 2012 case of a notorious Silk Road vendor who was effectively identified and arrested after post office employees provided a lead to authorities.
Market Seizures Can Lead Authorities to Darknet Buyers
The series of anti-dark web law enforcement operations have resulted in identification and arrest of both operators and users linked to the illegal activities facilitated by underground platforms.
Usually, whenever a vendor is apprehended or a dark web market is seized, authorities discover a wealth of fresh leads that would empower the efficient capacities of their investigations.
Take the example of the infamous German dark web vendor “Shiny Flakes” who was arrested in 2015, with investigators discovering a customers’ list that was later used to identify his dark web buyers.
Importantly, dark web buyers must realize that illicit purchases may come to bite them in future – just like the 2016 case involving a dark web buyer who was contacted by police after the authorities came across the buyer records kept by his darknet vendor.
Undercover Cops Roam the Dark Web
In case you are lucky not to fall into the above law enforcement traps, take note that darknet marketplaces are visited by undercover agents looking to identify illicit activities and their facilitators.
Just like regular police operations in the traditional local context, police departments continue to deploy undercover operations to nab unsuspecting buyers of illegal stuff.
A 2017 Europol press release provided a glimpse into how undercover police operations may be used to dismantle darknet networks and identify users hiding behind the veil of anonymity and privacy.
According to the law enforcement agency, undercover agents used covert means to take over the Hansa dark web market, and monitor user activity without their knowledge. At the same time, the authorities closed AlphaBay.
Considering that this action saw the migration of refugee AlphaBay vendors and buyers into Hansa, the authorities took the chance to conduct a sweep on the platform’s new entrants.