The U.S. Department of Justice’s Operation Disarray, which aims to disrupt opioid trafficking to and within the U.S., has seen the Federal Bureau of Investigation together with other federal agencies collaborate with local authorities to apprehend those involved and educate the public about the current opioid crisis.
For the operation to be successful, it is paramount for the officers involved to possess adequate knowledge in dark web affairs, which will see them employ a wide variety of tactics to curb the ever-growing drug crime vice.
In Michigan, the case is no different as the police in the area are participating in training that aims to equip them with the necessary skills to undertake specific darknet investigations.
The training has been initiated by the Department of Homeland Security, which was one of the federal agencies involved in Operation Disarray.
Other government bodies that took part in the operation are the Postal Inspection Service, Internal Revenue Service, Drug Enforcement Administration and Customs and Border Protection, which all have a role to play.
Since the bodies mentioned above are tasked with different duties, their joint efforts are crucial in fighting the crime that has been brought about as a result of the dark web.
The officers who took part in the training were also drawn from Ohio, and they totaled to about 500. During the session, they learned about digital currencies and how they are used to purchase from the darknet markets.
They also gained knowledge on financial transactions connected to the trafficking of some drugs.
The personnel were taught about the various challenges they’re likely to face when conducting certain types of investigations.
Challenges Likely to Be Encountered in Darknet Operations
Angie Salazar, Homeland Security’s deputy special agent for investigation in Ohio and Michigan, acknowledged in a statement that the use of cryptocurrencies had become a problem for investigators because they are hard to trace—thus making them a preference for criminals.
The fact that digital currencies are a challenge for authorities was revealed in a leaked memo earlier this year where the U.S. Army, together with the National Security Agency, is seeking to track cryptocurrency users.
The major challenges with virtual currencies such as Monero is the use of Stealth Addresses and Ring Signatures.
For the other cryptocurrencies, users tend to employ the use of shufflers (also known as mixers) to mix up their tokens so that it becomes nearly impossible for them to get traced.
Some other digital tokens popularly known to have tumblers are Bitcoin, Litecoin and Bitcoin Cash, among others.
Also, users tend to employ the use of fake drop addresses to receive goods that have been ordered from the dark web.
By doing so, the investigative process is complicated as the personnel who may get involved with the operation will find it difficult to trace a culprit.
Despite all these challenges, the local authorities aim to achieve their goals by analyzing the criminal activities being perpetrated in the area over the internet.
This will further enable them to narrow down and apprehend culprits in the event anyone is found culpable of a punishable offense.
What the Authorities Had to Say?
As is always the case with authorities requesting the general public to cooperate, the same is no different with Salazar, the deputy special agent in Michigan.
Salazar says they need people with any information to come out to assist since in some cases, they’re not aware of the exact source of the drugs.
Another person who was involved in the training is Michael Wendling, who works as a prosecution attorney in St. Clair County.
In his statement, he raises concerns about how the hidden markets have enabled persons to remotely order drugs without the knowledge of third parties such as law enforcement agencies.
And this has, in turn, facilitated the transactions of various types of illegal goods and services over the years.
Wendling also gives examples of how cryptocurrencies have been used in the past to buy drugs from the Netherlands and China.
The St. Clair County Sheriff also commented that his team members have indeed received training which is relevant and beneficial for their day-to-day activities.
He also says that most of the deaths, incidences of violence, arrests and home invasions have been in one way or the other caused by the drugs which are readily available in darknet markets.
Darknet Markets as a Source of Drugs
Currently, there are several darknet markets, and all operate in a somewhat different manner. However, it is a common occurrence to meet a vendor working on one market doing the same on another one.
What’s more is that they even use the same username and give the same product listings. Perhaps, the only difference when checking the vendor profile is the number of ratings as some markets are known to have more clients than others.
With that said, we can note that drugs are among most profiteering businesses in the dark web and there is no doubt that darknet markets have made drug trafficking become exceedingly rampant over the years because individuals can now order their choice of drugs with a click of a button.
Based on what they want, they can choose a drug depending on the type, dosage and potency. When compared to what is on the street, then it is evident that the dark web offers a broader variety, thus making it a preference for many.