Dutch vendors have built a reputation within the dark web community for offering quality products from a wide range of options.
Because of that, they have attracted clientele from within the country and outside the country, and for this reason, the local authorities are watching out for them and the admins of the markets because they are responsible for what goes on inside the markets.
By bringing the above two down, the situation at hand can be contained to a greater or lesser extent.
To keep things in check authorities in the country have come up with measures to combat the dark web menace that manifests in several ways.
To mention a few, some of the biggest markets like the seized Hansa Market, which was brought down by law enforcement personnel through a tightly coordinated Operation Bayonet.
The operation led to the seizure of the market’s servers that were based in Lithuania.
Additionally, not only does the country host individuals who are knowledgeable in dark web affairs, but there is also a small proportion of online users who are fond of using the hidden markets to procure drugs and other goods and services that are illegal.
The severity of the matter has caught the attention of security agencies making them devise methods used in very few countries to apprehend criminals.
What’s more is that individual divisions have been set up within the inner security circles whose primary purpose is to specialize in specific operations.
Tactics Used by Dutch Security Personnel to Identify Users
After the fall of Hansa, security personnel in the country began an initiative that involved knocking on the doors of the individuals who had links with the market.
According to a Dutch police officer in charge of the darknet operation division, Nan van de Coevering, by analyzing certain crypto transactions, they would successfully identify the people involved.
By crawling through thousands of hidden web services including social media platforms, public registers, databases and other registers, they would identify addresses of the individual which they would then use to link the transactions.
Then by also using information provided by crypto exchanges which are bound by law to provide information about the users, they can be able to know precisely which transactions originate from specific Bitcoin addresses.
So once the investigating officers have an address of a suspect, then the rest is not very hard as it involves connecting the dots which is similar to the traditional methods employed by regular police during investigations.
In an statement by Coevering, who was appointed to head the dark web division some months before the fall of Hansa and AlphaBay markets, she acknowledges that the dark web and crypto-related criminal activities will continue to grow, and they will do what they can to keep things in check; this includes innovating and staying up-to-date with the latest activities.
By employing individuals from various backgrounds such as cryptography, coding, forensic examination, finance among many other professions, the team intends to counter the vice since it makes it easier for them to link events that have happened on different occasions.
In her role, the lead detective says that she does not know how to code but either way that does not hinder her ability to discharge her duties in any manner whatsoever.
What matters is that she has learned many concepts such as the technology behind the Blockchain and much more which is crucial in her career.
For example, after the fall of Hansa and AlphaBay, there was an influx of refugees to other markets like Dream.
Since the Dutch security personnel had already infiltrated the market, they had information about the hundreds if not thousands of the market users.
So when the affected market users began creating other accounts in other marketplaces, the majority kept using their username and PGP.
Because of that, the operation still continues to show more success since they keep on getting hold of suspected culprits.
Third Parties Analyze Crypto Transactions
With the help of Chainalysis, a software company dealing with the forensic analysis of cryptocurrencies, the Coevering-led team can identify individuals involved in various undertakings that may be of criminal nature.
The software provided by Chainalysis uses an artificial intelligence system to detect if there are specific addresses that have similar transactions.
When this happens, then it is a clear indication that there is a single party whose primary intention is to accumulate funds by collecting it in bits.
The other mode that they use to tell is if there are suspicious activities is when several Bitcoin transactions are originating from the same source, then suddenly change route to a new wallet.
In general, the tool developed by the company detects the availability of clusters in the blockchain.
In the past few years, Bitcoin has been and still is the primary mode of payment in the darknet markets but with time, the wave is slowly changing because of the integration of new cryptocurrencies that are considered be cheaper in the sense that the transaction costs are lower, convenient in that the transaction time is less and, lastly, they offer more anonymity.
Because of this, Chainalysis seeks to venture into developing other tools that could analyze the blockchain of other digital tokens commonly used by cybercriminals.
The move could see the company attracting more high-level clientele as is the case now.
Challenges Faced When Investigating Crypto Transactions
At first, it was thought that with Bitcoin, the transactions are purely anonymous but this is not the case.
There have been several instances where individuals get arrested after third parties such as law enforcement agencies successfully trace the movement of the coins.
Then, the fact that law enforcement personnel are trying to come up with new ways to track cryptocurrencies shows that no one can be sure of their anonymity when dealing with cryptocurrencies.
A pertinent example is evident in a leaked memo indicating that the National Security Agency and U.S. Army are working on capabilities to trace Monero users.
Because of the ability to track cryptocurrencies, darknet users have embraced tumbling services which enable them to clear traces of how the funds move.
By doing so, they complicate the process in the event any third parties seek to track what they are doing.
The other thing is the use of stealth addresses, which helps in the event someone is monitoring a particular address.
What happens, in this case, is that the blockchain generates a different address for your wallet which can be used to receive funds.
With the use of the above two, and systems such as escrow, the investigation of crypto transactions may end up not yielding fruits if done in the right way.
The Crypto Era Has Just Begun
About 10 years ago, there was nothing like Bitcoin, but now, hundreds of cryptocurrencies are coming up.
Also, the rate at which cryptocurrencies are growing is tremendous, and as such, the future is likely to see drastic changes happening in the coming days.
What is notable is that some of these have been seen before whereas others will be seen for the very first time, and all this is because of the innovations that happen on a daily basis.
The result is that there will be an increase in illegal activities associated with cryptocurrencies, and authorities including the Dutch police will have to be in the loop with the recent developments.