Australian drug dealers are expanding into the expanding markets of the "dark network", where buying illegal substances is cheap and convenient, and it is practically impossible to be discovered.
In a joint survey of news.com.au and Storyful, the extension of the internal online drug trade was revealed, with everything from cocaine to fentanyl in the hospital.
With little confusion and minimal risk, users can access mega stores that work very much like eBay or Amazon, hosting several merchants who promote their products along with star ratings, written feedback and even customer satisfaction guarantees.
And experts say the business is booming, with Australian users making up the largest per capita cohort of dark web drug shoppers in the world.
"From all the indicators we have, the dark web drug trade is bigger than it has ever been in Australia," he told News.com.au. Professor James Martin, associate professor at Swinburne University of Technology
"We are seeing large increases in domestic trade, with an increase in the number of Australian sellers."
& # 39; WHAT YOU WANT & # 39;
In the same way that legitimate brick and mortar retailers have moved their operations online, a growing number of enterprising dealers now also embrace e-commerce.
A review of the obscure web markets has produced hundreds of results for operators based in Australia who sell a variety of illicit substances almost exclusively to local people.
Street drugs like cocaine, MDMA, ecstasy and marijuana were readily available, as well as addictive substances such as crystalline methamphetamine and heroin.
A seller who advertised as "one of Australia's top MDMA producers" boasted over 1000 positive reviews from buyers over the past six months.
Another vendor with a similar sales history described himself as "an Australian seller of high quality pharmaceutical prescription drugs".
One of Australia's largest sellers on a large market, which mainly deals with ketamine, cocaine and amphetamines, has more than 1000 recent positive reviews and claims to have been active on other websites, including many who are now dead.
And a retailer that deals exclusively with crystal meth has promised the "best possible service" and the product "directed from the top of the chain", with 350 positive reviews this month.
The news.com.au and Storyful analysis of a market, considered the world's largest obscure web operator, found over 60 Australian ketamine lists, many of which were advertised as being imported from India, one of the main producers of dissociative.
Also available were GHB – a psychoactive and well-known drug for "date rape" – and even pentobarbital, used in the execution cocktails on Texas death row.
Worryingly, the markets also had fentanyl, a synthetic opiate that is 50-100 times stronger than morphine, and carfentanil, an incredibly powerful synthetic painkiller, also 100 times stronger than fentanyl.
Both of these drugs contributed greatly to the US prescription abuse crisis, which caused an explosion of opioid-related deaths.
RELATED: Illegal drugs easily purchased on the obscure web sent by mail to users throughout Australia
Journalist Eileen Ormsby, author the book Web more obscure and has been studying black markets online for most of a decade, said the sale of extremely dangerous substances like fentanyl was a relatively recent trend.
"It's terrifying," he said. "I don't know why it came up recently, but I'd say it has a lot to do with price."
In general, the most popular drugs traded online are MDMA, cocaine and ecstasy, while cannabis was also a hot seller, Ormsby said.
"NO REAL RISK"
The obscure web is a part of the Internet not found through search engines, in which the sites are hosted on overlay networks that require software, configurations or specific permissions for access.
Users who buy drugs from abroad run the risk that their packages will be intercepted by the Australian Border Force in mail processing centers. Increasingly, sophisticated detection techniques are being used in an attempt to slow down the flow of imports.
But in the national postal system, dr. Martin stated that there is no real risk for either sellers or buyers.
"Intercepting drugs sent to Australia is complicated, especially when it comes to small quantities," he said.
Long-term obscure web vendors pride themselves on their shipping techniques and tracking records without detection.
A local operator who news.com.au and Storyful proudly discovered that "they had never intercepted a package" and explained that his drugs were vacuum sealed, rubbed with alcohol and cleverly masked.
RELATED: What exactly is the dark web?
Another seller has specified that the packages are sent both from New South Wales, with delivery in one or two working days, and by regular mail, arriving up to 10 days.
"The products are shipped in NSW via express (Australia Post)," said the seller.
"Outside of NSW we use regular mail for your security in the event of a blitz (unless you tell us to send Express from NSW and you want to risk a blitz.) We recently created a second location within QLD for MDMA. If you wish it to be sent in QLD, it will have an additional cost. "
The lower risk of detection when receiving drugs from sellers based in Australia was one of the main reasons why domestic trade grew, said Dr. Martin.
"As the market gets bigger and more saturated, there's still less need to buy from international retailers," he said.
Ms Ormsby stated that "there is virtually no chance" that a national package will be checked unless the authorities have a specific intelligence.
"It would be very difficult to implement these detection methods," he said.
"Also, I don't know if it's a big problem (for the authorities) because the drugs are already in Australia. They focus on catching them on the way to the country."
There are examples of Australian sellers who are caught and prosecuted by the authorities.
In October 2018, police beat two Gold Coast men, Simon Byrne and Michael Hutchinson, and arrested them, claiming that the roommates conducted an obscure drug operation on the web from their apartment.
"The surveillance noted that Hutchinson took Byrne … they participated in the Peninsular Apartments … and they entered a room and stayed there for half an hour … from there they went to the Australia Post and they have deposited a number of packages, "Commonwealth prosecutor Daniel Whitmore said after arrests.
Last month, a couple, also from the Gold Coast, were imprisoned after pleading guilty to online drug trafficking for about a year, completing more than 600 orders that yielded $ 400,000.
Jonathon Gray was the main operator and his wife, Kathleen Ann, assisted him, heard a court in Brisbane. He was sentenced to nine years in prison and she received a six-year sentence.
Ormsby said that overseeing the dark network requires significant resources and "old-fashioned detective work".
"He is waiting for people to make mistakes, sending police to undercover markets, making purchases, trying to track down Bitcoin, trying to make friends with people inside," he said.
ONLY AS EBAY
Unique brand, proud track record of satisfied customers, competitive prices and benefits, reimbursement guarantees and quality assurance – this is the tone of most sellers.
Many Australian sellers on the dark web operate as a traditional business, employing marketing tactics that you would expect to see in a legitimate retail environment.
"Many obscure web retailers talk about the attraction of running it as a real business," said Martin.
"Some make the brand. They pride themselves on customer satisfaction. The competition is rigid on the dark network. The information available puts a lot of power in the hands of the buyer.
"You have all the retailers in one place, the prices are transparent and their track record in terms of customer service is clear."
RELATED: Poisoned water puddles – the legal dangers of dark network surveillance activities
A seller who has operated on an important market since January has a positive feedback of 99%. They promote their "high quality product, consistency, low competitive prices" and even "accept specific custom orders".
Another prolific obscure web retailer who seemed to have encountered some problems in their personal lives recently issued an apology for delays in delivery.
"It's a lot to deal with when dealing with some personal problems," he said, explaining that they had been overwhelmed by a rush to buy.
"I didn't even check my feedback as I don't have the time I can't stand being behind this computer at the moment. But I'm sure there are some buyers fed up with 1 gram who left negative feedback, which I don't blame you for once again I apologize I could not prepare many small orders and make it happen in the time available! "
A FALSE TRUST
Dark web markets selling everything from drugs to stolen IDs and phishing credit card numbers began to emerge a decade ago with the arrival of Silk Road.
The original online black market based in the United States began in 2011 and housed a collection of nefarious merchandise sellers until its closure in 2013 by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).
At that time, the FBI touted that claiming such a huge scalp had triggered "the beginning of the end" for the dark network.
They were wrong.
"All the markets that have come since then have reduced the Silk Road in size, and it has become increasingly popular every year," said Ormsby.
"The annual Global Drugs Survey, the largest of its kind in the world, shows that the number of people buying drugs online continues to increase.
"This does not necessarily mean that more people buy and take drugs. It means that people are finding a different way to buy them than to go to" Shady Steve "down the street or take them to a night club.
"Australians are the highest per capita users of online drug markets in the world. The highest (in general numbers) are the United States, followed by the United Kingdom and Australia is often third. If you consider our population, it's really amazing. "
However, Dr. Martin said that transactions on the dark web still represent a "small part" of the global drug market, both here and globally.
"The vast majority continues to unfold according to the old style, face to face in the streets," he said. "I would suggest that most of the forces of the order focus on the" offline "drug trade, and I would say that's where it should be."
Globally, as it grows, the dark web drug market has paled compared to traditional commerce, which is worth "trillions and trillions of dollars" compared to the "several hundred million" online, said Ormsby.
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