A team of intelligence analysts have been created by the Australian Border Force and tasked exclusively with the monitoring and patrolling the network of encrypted websites known as the dark web.
This comes in the wake of recent statistics that indicate the rising popularity of these websites particularly as an easily accessible source of illicit goods.
“The Australian” newspaper, reports that the dark web task force’s primary objective is to identify drugs and weapons vendors responsible for the entry of illicit goods into Australia.
The dark web, a hub of criminal commerce, is filled with traders of illicit goods, hackers, con-artists, pedophiles, and extremists.
The Australian Border Force Intelligence Team, comprising of four intelligence analysts, are expected to analyze the criminal activities going on in the dark web and provide concrete leads and evidence that will enable law enforcement agencies to prosecute their suspects.
Dark Web Commerce Thriving
Easy access to this dark web is made possible by a number of web encryption software tools that provide anonymity to the administrators of darknet markets and the “shoppers” as well, the most popular of which is Tor (The Onion Router).
The Tor browser, for instance, provides layers of encryption that effectively (to a certain extent anyway) covers up the true origin of its users’ IP addresses in addition to making their online pathways imperceptible.
Under this mask of anonymity, the sale of drugs such as cocaine, MDMA, and cannabis thrives in organized e-commerce platforms that are so advanced that they even have well-established feedback and rating systems.
One can argue that cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and ether are the backbone of darknet trade since they provide a standard of transaction that is not only completely decentralized but also impossible to trace back to the buyers and sellers involved.
The only significant weakness to these elaborately set up darknet markets is that the vendors still rely on regular postal services to get their products to their customers.
The postal service is one of the ways law enforcement catches up with criminals on these websites, particularly when the trading of illicit goods is involved.
However, in most cases, the lack of clear evidence that links arrested buyers to vendors usually prevents law enforcement from prosecuting their suspects.
Size of the Dark Web Remains Unknown
After being approached by The Australian on several occasions to provide insight on the actual size of the web site economy, the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission finally issued a statement in which a ballpark number of darknet sites believed to be involved in the drugs trade was trotted out.
Few law enforcement agencies are fully aware of the total number of dark web operations in and around their areas of jurisdiction.
A criminologist from Macquarie University, Dr. James Martin estimates that at least 150 dark web vendors are based in Australia.
Police not Properly Equipped to Takedown Dark Web Criminals
Despite ACIC chief executive Chris Dawson’s statement to The Australian in which he warns criminals on this website that they can be traced, illegal activity continues on the dark web with virtual impunity as criminals learn that few law enforcement agencies possess the resources to make good on this threat.
Dr. Martin cites a lack of resources as the main challenge faced by law enforcement agencies when it comes to apprehending criminals on this website.
He says that although the technology needed to unearth criminals hiding under layers of encryption is available, it is often too costly and almost always never leads to the capture of the big-time drug vendors on this website.
Already, 23 dark web-related arrests have been made in Australia so far, and only one of which involved the attempted importation of a firearm.
The other factor that is in the vendor’s favor is that because there is no drug violence involved with the buying and selling of drugs on the dark web, it doesn’t get as much media scrutiny and therefor the politicians don’t press for convictions as much. Until now.
If you are a dark web vendor operating from Australia, it would be time to increase your online privacy and security as much as you can.