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Drug Trafficking in the Dark Web in 2023

Drug Trafficking in the Dark Web in 2023

Drug trafficking is one of the most widespread activities and trade across the deep and dark. According to research, drugs are considered to be the most commonly available product on darknet marketplaces.

Drug trading takes place on different deep and dark web platforms, including illegal darknet marketplaces also known as “drug markets”, chat applications, and dark web forums. Drug trafficking-related content is mentioned over 17,000 times on these platforms- every day.

What are the top countries mentioned in drug discussions on the dark web?

According to Webz.io’s data, the countries most mentioned in drug trafficking posts on the dark web are the US, the UK, Germany, Canada, and the Netherlands

Drug trafficking-related dark web posts per country over the past 3 months
Drug trafficking-related dark web posts per country over the past 3 months

How are drug transactions made on the dark web?

The transfer of payment for illicit drugs on dark web platforms is carried out in two main ways, both of which rely on blockchain technology that protects the anonymity of both the supplier and the buyer:

  • Direct payment – refers to the transfer of money directly to the supplier, which is done by providing the buyer with the supplier’s personal crypto address. The crypto address may be shared in public in the drug listing or alternatively, is shared in private messages. 
  • Third-party payment – In other cases, the dark web platform acts as a middleman. The buyer then does not pay the vendor directly but instead, pays the dark web platform’s admin who then transfers the fee to the vendor. Another option is when the buyer will pay the admin in return for credits for purchases on the platform. These methods are used as a precaution against scams – minimizing the threat of fraudulent transactions.

The top 3 sources for drug trafficking on the dark and deep web

Source #1: Marketplaces

Dark web marketplaces, both on the open web and on Tor, operate as decentralized marketplaces, which are by far the most common place for the illegal drug trade, alongside other illegal products.

Some of the most known marketplaces for trading drug products are WeTheNorth, Cocorico Market, OMGOMG, and AlphaBay.

Users, languages, and origins of products

There are dozens of drug-related dark marketplaces with thousands of users (vendors and buyers) that operate on them. According to Webz.io’s data, 92.8% of the drug-related activity in marketplaces is operated in English, followed by German (4.7%), French (2.2%), and Italian (1.2%).

The main languages used in drug-related activity on dark web marketplaces

What does a drug product listing look like on a dark web marketplace?

Drug traders list drug products by using a fixed template, which includes a few sections, including the name and the type of drug, the weight of the product, the location it’s shipped from, shipment details, and pricing.

A listing of Cocaine offered for sale on the popular marketplace Kingdom Market
A listing of Cocaine offered for sale on the popular marketplace Kingdom Market

Source #2: Telegram

Telegram is a widely-used platform for dark web criminals and is a go-to cyberspace for vendors and buyers who use it on a daily basis. This platform is commonly used because of its accessibility, free use, and anonymity.  If we add to that the fact that chats are an easy and instant platform for communications, it is no wonder that there are thousands of Telegram groups and channels that are primarily focused on the sale of drugs, on an hourly basis.

What does a drug product listing look like on Telegram?

Unlike marketplaces, there isn’t a commonly used template for drug listings published on Telegram. However, due to the instant nature of sharing many new items for sale, vendors are more likely to share in public further information that wouldn’t have existed in marketplaces; for example, crypto addresses for the transactions or detailed pickup locations, as shown in the example below.

Drugs offered for sale on the widely known Telegram group “The Black Market” where a pickup location is mentioned
Drugs offered for sale on the widely known Telegram group “The Black Market” where a pickup location is mentioned

Source #3: Dark web forums

As dark web forums function as a global digital town square for cyber criminals to discuss, share, and trade illegal products, drug trafficking is also inherently present on these sites. There are two types of forums, one that is solely dedicated to drug-related content, like The Majestic Garden. Other dark web forums host a variety of illegal discussions, such as forums like Dread, but they have a dedicated section for drug-related discussions and trade. In both cases, there are more open discussions about drugs in general, whether sharing experiences or any new relevant data, but also a lot of advertisements of many sellers trying to promote themselves.

Some of the well-known forums for drug discussions and trading are Dread, NZ Darknet Market Forums, and The Majestic Garden.

What does a drug product listing look like on a dark web forum?

Below is a post published on the Crime Market dark web forum, written by a vendor selling different types of drugs.

A drug listing from the dark web which includes BTC and XMR Crypto addresses of vendor
A drug listing from the dark web which includes BTC and XMR Crypto addresses of vendor

In the post, the seller shares his BTC and XMR crypto addresses that can be used by buyers to transfer the money for the drugs they’re purchasing.

The future of drug trade on the deep and dark web

With the ease of access to drug trading platforms, such as dark web forums, chat applications, and marketplaces, it is no wonder that drug trafficking has become one of the most common crimes on the dark web. Sellers have complete anonymity, and buyers have access to an easy-to-use platform for purchasing new drugs.

Law enforcement agencies around the globe often monitor these platforms for illegal activities and counterfeiting. Any rigorous monitoring solution requires access to timely, constant, and structured dark web data to track relevant mentions, the latest trends of illegal drug trafficking, profiling the main drug players, and other relevant information to curtail these illegal operations.

Yuval Shibi
Yuval Shibi

Cyber Analyst

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