By nature, the level of determination among those involved in dealings on the dark web appears very strong.
With cyber crime-busting agencies and law enforcement gaining an upper hand after they successfully brought down major darknet sites like AlphaBay, the latest reports indicate that the dark web community has moved over to messaging apps to carry on their illegal trade dealings.
The research firm IntSights, which specializes in studying threat management, has come out with a detailed report on this that has made the authorities sit up and take notice.
Encryption of Messages is the Major Attraction
The advent of Tor gave people who regularly navigate the dark web a lot of security.
Since the entire network is encrypted, people selling and buying drugs or stolen goods felt secure in showcasing their wares. At the same time, dark web buyers also felt comfortable placing orders and making payments through cryptocurrencies.
However, over time, the U.S. Department of Justice along with investigating teams from the FBI (Federal Bureau of Investigation) and other agencies have caught up with them.
Some of these investigators went undercover to place orders and track the warehouses and courier agencies which were handling illegal shipments.
Earlier this year, law enforcement successfully brought down AlphaBay, one of the most popular dark web marketplaces.
Closely following the takedown, the authorities also brought down Hansa, another popular darknet market.
These crackdowns have definitely held their impact. That’s why messaging apps have now come very handy among those in the dark web community who are facing intensifying privacy concerns.
The most popular options are WhatsApp, Telegram, Skype and Facebook Messenger.
There are also other messaging apps used in particular parts of the world that are still popular—these include Discord, which was being used mostly by video games enthusiasts but has now come in handy for the dark web trading community.
Almost all of these messaging apps promise end-to-end encryption, and it might really be a herculean task for the investigative agencies to first trace these.
And even if they do so to prove the crime in a court of law, they will need to decrypt the messages which might be well-near impossible.
Tor Might Still be Used
All said and done, the messaging apps cannot be the complete solution.
There are several burdens to business if dark web dealers pursue trading on these platforms.
But if the buyer and seller know and trust each other and the transactions are regular between them, that could be the ideal situation for this business to thrive.
There are indeed limitations to do a successful trade, however clandestine.
The buyers may still browse the markets and then resume the exchange of negotiations on price and other matters through their smartphones.
Ease of Doing Business Assured
One big edge the messaging apps have given the dark web trade is the convenience of mobility, wherever they are. This factor is one that cannot be overlooked.
The statistics the research has brought out can really sound staggering.
On the Discord messaging app alone, over 9,000 links to dark web sites have been exchanged.
This has to be understood in perspective, since this is almost nine times more than that found on Telegram and WhatsApp. The figure represents the messages sent from just two countries—Brazil and Turkey.
As in the real world where there are hotspots for criminal gangs to operate from, the same can be applied to virtual spaces as well.
Dark Web a Growing Menace
Despite the enormous efforts put on by the law enforcement agencies, the dark web is clocking mind-blogging rates of growth as some studies have recently recorded.
One of the most popular items sold is ransomware, practically handing over the tools required to hack sites and steal data and put up a ransom demand.
This “business” is supposed to have grown 2,500 percent year-over-year and is still on the rise.
All these put a lot of pressure on those involved in busting cyber crime, and they need to put in a lot of work over long periods of time before they zero in on some of the culprits.
By then, another set of criminals will likely be on the prowl with another modus operandi.
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