Dark Shadows

Reuters photo

 

By

Ricardo Swire

 

The Dark Net, also known as the world-wide-web’s black market, has allowed transnational drug trafficking networks to be more far reaching. Global purchasers access drugs easily and anonymously, which qualify this medium as the “uptick” of modern drugs trafficking.

The Deep Web’s malicious program called “Doxing,” or the act of illegitimately broadcasting an individual’s personally identifiable information (PII) such as passport or social security numbers and physical addresses, is another common phenomenon. This criminal tactic of disguise is often used to make online drug deals.

Such technological developments make Caribbean and international law enforcement inter-agency collaboration imperative. Interpol reported that organized international gangs are behind most internet scams. The international police agency added cyber crime’s estimated cost is more than cocaine, heroin and marijuana trafficking combined. Several organized international gangs have targeted the Caribbean, the Tor browser, one popular Dark Net medium extensively utilized. The cyberspace portal makes purchasing cocaine, heroin and marijuana easier than before.

The electronic tool serves as a two edged sword. Both law enforcement and Syrian dissidents utilize Tor’s fortified encryption to protect valuable data. With an Internet connection users freely access the Tor Network’s virtual drug stores and make purchases, receiving delivery in a few days by mail or courier. Analysis shows online trafficking patterns are different from “real world” patterns. Whereas traditional heroin trafficking blueprints follow well-established land routes, online heroin trafficking patterns are geographically random.

Evidence suggests Russian mafia and transnational Drug Trafficking Organizations (DTOs) have capitalized on lessons learned from America’s Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) two year investigation of the now defunct Silk Road. When shuttered in October 2013 FBI agents found that after two and a half years of operation Silk Road generated US$1.2 billion in sales and US$80 million in commissions. Websites similar to “Evolution,” created in 2014 to offer over fifteen thousand illegal products, comprise the new frontier of drugs trafficking and online criminal activity.

The United Nations Office on Drugs & Crime’s (UNODC) Central America and Caribbean Representative warned that Central American gangs have strengthened relationships with transnational DTOs via the Dark Net, the heavily encrypted electronic medium subtly used for money laundering. Central American gangs manage Dark Net portals that offer transportation to DTOs for a fixed fee instead of the usual percentage of value.

While America’s heroin markets are traditionally supplied by Myanmar headquartered traffickers, fifty percent of the drug is dispatched by the Sinaloa Cartel in Mexico and Colombian suppliers. The Mexican Cartel has expanded production and changed its product type. White powder heroin, similar to Asian manufactured product, replaced Latin American tar heroin. Payments for drug shipments are remitted in Bitcoins, the decentralized digital currency that has anonymity. Such method avoids the identity revealing potential of credit cards usage.

Virtual money has a complex history. Liberty Reserve and e-Gold operations ran afoul of American law enforcement for money laundering. In May 2013 US Immigration & Customs Enforcement (ICE) seized the world’s largest Bitcoin exchange. Its indictment was operating an unlicensed money transmitting service. Today an estimated US$2 billion worth of Bitcoins are in circulation. The Dark Net is approximately four hundred times larger than the www.

During a two year period Trend Micros collected in excess of thirty-eight million pieces of content on the Dark Net, the equivalent to five hundred and seventy-six thousand URLs. English language sites comprised sixty-two percent of the Deep Web, while Russia made up seven percent and France five point five percent. Apart from hosting its thriving black market economy the Deep Web is home to malware such as computer Viruses, Trojans and Spyware. Due to a lack of dedicated national administrative focus Caribbean computer networks functioning in both the public and private sectors can also be “compromised,” “breached” or “hacked” via a method called “Advanced Persistent Threat.”

 

 

 

Ricardo Swire - Tuck Magazine

Ricardo Swire

Ricardo Swire is the Principal Consultant at R-L-H Security Consultants & Business Support Services and writes on a number of important issues.

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