SAN FRANCISCO — Authorities in the U.S. and EU recently staged a wide-ranging bustdown on online drug markets, taking down Wall Street Market and Valhalla, two of the largest drug markets on darkweb.
Yet the idea of selling drugs and illicit goods from the comfort of their home, to make a lot of money by sellling these illegal items seems to be stronger then the fear of going to jail.
Regardless of enforcement actions over the last six years that caused shutdown of half a dozen darkweb marketplaces, there is still almost 30 illegal online markets, according to DarknetLive.
This week, customers were still able to buy five grams of heroin for 0.021 Bitcoin ($170), or a tenth of a gram of crack-cocaine for 0.0017 Bitcoin ($14) on the Berlusconi market.
That means the fight against online drug deals is becoming similar to the war on drugs in the physical world: raids are executed, sites are shutted down; a few people got arrested. And once in a while, drug sales pop up somewhere else.
“The instability has become sort of baked into the dark-web market experience,” said Emily Wilson, an expert on the dark web at the security firm Terbium Labs. “People don’t get quite as scared by it as they did the first few times.”
Dark web markets most sold drugs
Dark web markets are viewed as one of the decisive sources of fentanyl and other synthetic opioids. These drugs are most often produced in China and sent to users found on the darkweb marketplaces. Packages coming from China are blamed for compounding the opioid crisis in the U.S.
On Empire, one of the largest markets online nowadays, people could have their pick of more than 26,000 drug and chemical listings, including over 2,000 opioids, shipped right to their mailbox.
Illicit online drug sales have grown in complexity and volume since the the infamous Silk Road was shut down, the original dark net marketplace that appeard online in 2011 and offered only a small selection of psychedelic mushrooms at first.
When the authorities took down the Silk Road in 2013 and sentenced its creator, Ross Ulbricht, there was a assumption that his failure and sentence would deter imitators.
But the dealers who had been selling the drugs on the market moved to competing sites set up with a similar infrastructure, using the Tor browser, that hides the location of the websites, their viewers, and Bitcoin, which allows people to stay anonymous.
Back in 2017, when the police took down two of the biggest successors to Silk Road, AlphaBay and Hansa market. According to Chainalysis, there was five times as much traffic on the dark net as the Silk Road had at its brightest point.
The creator of AlphaBay, Canadian citizen Alexandre Cazes, had been living an wealthy lifestyle in Thailand for years, with three properties and four Lamborghinis, thanks to the small commission that AlphaBay collected on every single transaction, prosecutors said. Cazes committed suicide shortly after being arrested.