The illegal drug trade on the dark web is growing rapidly, despite authorities shutting down major market sites like AlphaBay, as crime gangs diversify and seek new clients online, a report by two European Union agencies warned.
The report, which is the first of its kind to analyze the drug trade in Europe on the dark web, showed that online markets are becoming increasingly sophisticated and offering growing numbers of illegal products to buyers.
The dark web, or darknet, is a part of the internet that lies beyond the reach of search engines. Users are largely anonymous and untraceable and mainly pay with cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.
Alexis Goosdeel, head of Europe’s Lisbon-based drugs agency, said the report showed that the dark web is like the “bottom part of the iceberg” with growing and unknown threats. Two thirds of dark web transactions involve drugs, the report by Europol and European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) found. The biggest European markets are Germany, Britain and the Netherlands.
According to the report, from 2011-2015, drugs worth more than €170 million were sold over the dark web worldwide, including nearly €80 million euros worth in Europe.
Though this is a small fraction of the size of the physical market for drugs, Wainright said the number of products on offer was growing exponentially, which must be an indication also of increased demand and supply. Goosdeel said the dark web is an increasingly attractive market because buyers and sellers are anonymous and there is a perception that drugs bought there are good quality. Vendors and buyers quickly migrate to new platforms, the report said, adding that the majority of dark web sites survive less than a year.