The furthest corners of the dark web contain content that has been concealed intentionally. Internet users can access these corners for legitimate purposes or to hide criminal or otherwise malicious activities.
In recent years, law enforcement officials and policy makers have shown interest in these parts of the internet, largely due to the exploitation of the dark web for all sorts of illegal activities.
These activities can range from drug dealing, selling illegally acquired (hacked) information, child exploitation and arms dealing. There has been a steady increase in the number of reports concerning the arrests and prosecution of individuals who engage in these activities.
In a more recent case, a 22-year-old dark web drug dealer has been handed a 10-year jail sentence at the Old Bailey criminal courts after he pleaded guilty to attempting to buy a fragmentation grenade on the dark web.
Luis McMullan was apprehended in November last year at his home in Tufnell Park, London. The investigation that led to his arrest was a joint operation carried out by the National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Organized Crime Partnership (OCP). OCP is a special branch of the Metropolitan Police.
McMullan was very cooperative with the law enforcement authorities and admitted that he had indeed searched for the fragmentation grenade on an unspecified dark web marketplace.
Internet users can purchase illegal goods and services in darknet marketplaces using bitcoins. The primary mode of financial transaction in a large percentage of illicit dark web markets is the bitcoin cryptocurrency, due to its pseudonymous nature.
McMullan also told the Old Bailey courts that he used bitcoin to pay the whole amount for the fragmentation grenade.
The site used by McMullan—and many others like it—act like underground black markets where users can acquire all kinds of illegal items from vendors while remaining anonymous.
There are a few similar bold platforms that are operated on the surface web (the internet that is indexed by traditional search engines). According to the National Crime Agency, McMullan was never in possession of the fragmentation grenade in this case.
The law enforcement authorities searched his property and uncovered several drug items and illegal weaponry. These included 30 rounds of unused hollow point ammunition, two pen guns (small firearms that resemble ink pens), a small bag of MDMA as well as 78 tablets of MDMA stored in a small container.
The National Crime Agency stated that the pen guns were capable of discharging hollow point rounds. The police officers also discovered a number of offensive weapons such as knives and knuckle dusters.
Spencer Barnett, an officer from the Organized Crime Partnership, stated that McMullan planned to purchase a fully functional fragmentation grenade, which he termed as an extremely dangerous weapon with the potential and capability to cause serious harm or damage.
It’s not clear what exactly McMullan’s intentions were for purchasing the weapons.
This is mainly due to the fact that limited information has been availed regarding the details of the case at Old Bailey.
Other than the plea for attempting to import a fragmentation grenade, McMullan also pleaded guilty to the possession of firearms and ammunition as well as possession of class A drugs with the intent to supply. He was sentenced to 10 years in prison in May 2017.
Barnett voiced a stern warning to individuals contributing to the flow of illegal weaponry into the U.K. He confirmed that the OCP is working with other law enforcement agencies to actively target users who employ the dark web to purchase and sell illegal goods and services.