Australian Border Force Analysts Dive Deep into the Darknet

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The Australian Border Force has made a move to control the marketplace of drugs, child pornography, guns and illicit activities. In a way to control this network of heavily encrypted internet sites, a small team of intelligence analysts has been set up by the Australian Border force to patrol the Darknet.

According to reports, a small team of officers has been tasked with identifying Darknet vendors. The area under consideration includes vendors operating in Australia, and trading in dangerous goods that target Australia. As reported, the team is understood to be comprised of four intelligence analysts. Their focus will be on the Darknet activities and identify leads for larger investigations.

Reporters understand that the move is in response to the growing in popularity of the Darknet marketplace for illicit goods.

In 2016, a Global Drug Survey released that 9.3 percent of respondents bought illicit drugs online. They take advantage of the ready availability of encrypting software to freely trade drugs with online dealers.

An array of drug dealers is available online to trade in drugs such as pharmaceutical-grade drugs, MMDA, cocaine, and cannabis. It is assumed that the use of bitcoin in the Darknet transactions make it virtually impossible to connect to the buyer and the seller.

The investigation has revealed that the drugs are usually delivered to buyers through mail. Due to the absence of communication between sellers and buyers, it becomes difficult to prosecute them even if they are detected by the border security. In a chat with one of the forum moderators on the old Silk Road market who introduced himself as Peter, he revealed how panic strikes the forum when they hear the news that a shipment has gone missing.

“There were often panicked posts from people who had been contacted or raided by the police following a shipment going missing.” He also said that “Sometimes people would get called in for a ‘chat’ with the police; however, the impression I was given from what I read on the forums was that in most situations the police were not that interested in pursuing matters that rigorously.” Peter added that “The few Australian cases where people have been successfully prosecuted for ordering drugs from Darknet markets, they’ve mostly been busted due to their activities in the real world and not their online activities.”

The size of the Darknet market grows day after day, and it’s difficult to estimate its size. Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission, an agency charged with providing criminal intelligence about organized crime appears to have no idea of the size of the Darknet economy.

Questions imposed on the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission by reporters were not answered, and interview requests were declined. The agency then issued a statement that it was aware of a number of websites on the dark net that sold drugs.

Chris Dawson, ACIC’s chief executive said in a short written statement that “Anyone thinking of engaging in illegal activity through these websites should have no confidence they are unable to be traced.”

James Martin, a criminologist at the Macquarie University said that there were about 150 Darknet operators in Australia. He also said that many more operators were based on offshore.

Dr. James Martin is the author of Drugs on the Darknet: How Cryptomarkets are Transforming the Global Trade in Illicit Drugs. To him, the law enforcement resources are largely stretched to pursue small drug seizures which are delivered by post.

He added that substances shipped from oversea are not monitored closely as one may think: “People tend to assume that drugs sent through the post will be sitting on a conveyor belt with sniffer dogs going up and down it. That’s usually not how it happens. Customs use their resources in a much more targeted fashion.”

James Martin again said that both the Darknet buyers and sellers operate with relative impunity. This is because the resources required in gathering evidence of trades conducted through the encrypted servers were beyond the capabilities of most police forces.

Dr. Martin asked that ‘’what’s the bang for your buck?’’ ‘’With dark-net dealers, you’re investing huge amounts of money in cyber investigation and in the end; you’re getting small-time drug dealers. It’s not that they can’t do it, it’s about how much money do you want to spend to track (them down)?’’

There is a Darknet researcher who works under the pseudonym, “gwern.net’’ has classified about 23 arrests in Australia under Darknet activities. Most of the cases were drug-related, although, in an instance, the accused allegedly attempted to import guns from the Darknet.

Moving away from Australia, Islamic State-aligned extremists have exploited the Darknet to trade in propaganda, weapons and terror financing.

An 18-year-old German-Iranian, Ali Sonboly, who killed 10 in a shooting rampage in Munich in July 2016 is believed to have purchased the Glock pistol on the Darknet.

Security agents in all over the world are therefore taking notes of the activities that happens in the Darknet.

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