The environment of anti-darknet law enforcement is always shifting. Trying to match criminal agility, law enforcement agencies keep finding new methods to track criminals.
With modern technology, the criminal scene has drastically shifted. With more and more criminals moving from the streets online it is becoming increasingly difficult to track them. The advancements in technology have helped even the less savvy criminals stay safe behind an online curtain.
All these cybersecurity improvements are not only expected to make criminals more advanced. Law enforcement agencies around the world are benefiting equally. New technology is allowing them to destroy competitive criminal networks.
Dark-net drug networks are thriving more than ever. Due to the tech-savvy nature of the people that set up the markets, less-savvy criminals get to benefit. This is how many criminals elude law enforcement in the modern-era of drug trade.
Why law-enforcement will always be behind
A report published by the Australian National University revealed many details. Stakeholders looking to dismantle international criminal drug rings are out of luck. This comes are dark-net hosted criminal networks are not expected to vanish any time soon.
The ANU report reveals just how complex dark-net operations are becoming. The study made it clear that any efforts by law enforcement to dismantle the dark-net are bound to fail. This comes despite the massive time and resources law enforcement is putting into combating such networks.
The ANU report reveals that innovation on the dark-net is driven by cyber-criminals. Most of them are driven by the need to gain profits. This results in the formulation of modern and complex dark-net business models. Old obsolete business models are usually quickly withdrawn or dismantled by law-enforcement.
To arrive to this conclusion, researchers looked for dark-net markets and analyzed trends. This includes measuring overall drug availability and any changes in the number of members or vendors. The study mainly focused on opioids as it is what law enforcement is mainly targeting.
The research found eight popular dark-net markets from January to December of 2019. This includes major markets at the time such as Apollon, Empire, Nightmare and Dream market. Tochka, Berlusconi, Valhalla, and Wall Street were also featured.
According to the report, in April of 2019 three new platforms had risen. Agatha, Dream Alt and Samsara market. These markets have risen to fill the gaps left by Wall Street and Valhalla which were just seized.
Much of the report’s findings were focused 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 the tor browser.
The anonymity and privacy provided to users by the dark-net has made it very easy for most to use. Interested users can easily scan for dark-net markets and then look for any substance on them. Opioids like fentanyl are easier than ever to find. This is bad news as the lethal substance is many times more potent than heroin.
According to the report, the nature of the dark-net and the tactics used by law enforcement to counter it did not do any good. If anything, the law enforcement only achieved to destabilize the illicit industry. The researchers compared the situation to a game of cat-and-mouse. The markets stay more agile in the wake of all the law enforcement tactics thrown their way.
It mainly appears that for all dark-net market seizures there is always a new replacement. For every dark-net platform taken down, there has been at-least two new ones appearing to replace it. Each one takes a slightly different approach than it's predecessor. All evidence shows that criminals are quick to find an alternative platform when one is taken down.
Today, it's not uncommon seeing many small-sized niche markets. Each market caters to serve a specificity dark-net group. This opposes the previous massive platform designed to accommodate all criminals internationally.
With new technology, it is becoming more and more difficult for law enforcement to counter the dark-net. It has become more clear that law enforcement is understanding this difficulty. It is less common for law enforcement to target markets. What agencies around the world are doing now is embracing the platforms and using them to target independent criminals.