Europol is teaming up with other agencies in the continent to end the darknet marketplaces drug trade. In a report launched on November 28, 2017, the European police agency stated that they would be focusing on three areas. These include the EU drug supply chain, the fundamental concepts of the deep web and law enforcement approaches.
Dimitris Avramopoulos who is the European Commissioner for Migration, Home Affairs and Citizenship and Europol’s Rob Wainwright in conjunction with the EMCDDA launched the report.
— EU drugs agency (@EMCDDA) November 28, 2017
According to the report, illegal dark web market trading is an indication that organized transnational crime in Europe is on the increase. In the past, Europol has publications on how the complex darknet marketplaces work, and their implications for the health and security of the continent’s residents.
The dark web’s cryptomarkets offer a significant anonymity platform on which people trade in illegal items and services. According to Europol’s estimates, about 67 percent of the products and services involve drugs, an indication that drug trade on the darknet continues to rise.
Suppliers from the European Union play a significant role in the ecosystem, and they account for more than 46 percent of all the sales made around the globe. This accounts to EUR 80 million on the 16 major deep web markets, according to an analysis covered between 2011 and 2015.
The report identifies that there are several potential threats that these markets pose to the continent’s social and economic welfare. These include the emergence of decentralized networks that enable the markets to thrive on a large number of servers. Also, they have modern delivery systems for the parcels and products.
During the launch, Dimitris Avramopoulos expressed that the cryptomarkets have revolutionized the drug trade. He added that the criminals have continually become more creative and advised authorities not to play catch up but instead become smarter.
He admitted that cybercrime is an international affair with no borders. Stepping up cyber-security, Dimitris said, needs to be handled by all authorities. “We aim at stopping huge profits from drugs ending up in the pockets of organized criminal groups in Europe and beyond, but most importantly to protect the health of our citizens and in particular of young people,” he added.
Europol’s Rob Wainwright said that the Alphabay and Hansa shutdown in July 2017 served as an example of measures law enforcement agencies can take to disrupt the trade. But, he expressed worries that the market players are reorganizing rapidly. According to him, the sharing of intelligence and ‘targeting of high-impact vendors’ would subvert the trade.
He thus urges security agencies to cooperate in disrupting the darknet marketplaces that deal with drugs. The report further states that such disruption should be part of a bigger strategy to deal with the darknet narcotic ecosystem. In the execution of the report, Europol will form investigation teams and work with information technology industries (social media and payment service providers) to identify threats.
Speaking during the launch, EMCDDA’s Alexis Goosdeel expressed concerns about how easy it is for people to purchase illegal drugs on the darknet ‘in just a few clicks.’ He said the trade was posing a danger to the health and security around the continent. The insights in the joint analysis, he believes, will contribute significantly towards informing Europe’s response to the threat.
The darkweb is dynamic, and its markets often evolve to counter the threats and exploit new trading opportunities. Thus, security agents will have to keep up with the changes especially as users continue to hide their financial trails behind bitcoin mixers and other bitcoin tools. According to the Europol’s 2017 EU Serious and Organised Crime Threat Assessment (SOCTA), the illegal online trade is a primary engine of organized crime and thus poses a threat to the safety of people in the continent.
The EU Policy Cycle is also tackling the dark markets in a bid to combat organized international crime. The report aims at facilitating discussions and activities at the EU level in response to the sale of drugs on the dark web.
The deep web is a platform that does not show results on the ordinary search engines. To access the deep web, you ought to have the Tor anonymity browser. The majority of trade on the site is done via cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin debit cards.