Marijuana plants. (Ted S Warren, AP, file)
Cape Town - Drugs are the most traded commodities in the Dark Web, researchers say.
According to data from security firm Trend Micro, the most common drug traded in the Dark Web is cannabis where transactions are done in crypto-currency bitcoin.
The Dark Web is a collective given to the non-indexed parts of the internet where users operate anonymously and conduct illegal trade.
Trend Micro discovered that 31.6% of transactions involved cannabis, followed by pharmaceutical products (21.05%) such as Ritalin and Xanax.
While Ritalin is not illegal, it is often illicitly used by students at university to improve their results.
Drugs like LSD, methamphetamine, heroin and pirated video games and stolen accounts each account for around 5.26% of activity in dark web e-commerce.
Trend Micro used a technology called the Deep Web Analyzer (DeWa) which scans the dark web for illegal activities and services.
The results indicate that activity in this area of the internet is high as people have little chance of being caught conducting illegal activities.
"So far, we've collected more than 38 million events that account for 576 000 URLs, 244 000 of which bear actual HTML content," the company said of its efforts.
Police have little chance of nabbing people who conduct activities on the Dark Web. (Duncan Alfreds, Fin24)
While the internet provides some way for law enforcement officials to identify criminals and most internet companies will prohibit the sale and distribution of unlawful content, the dark web gives people a near perfect anonymous way to operate.
"Anonymity in the Deep Web will continue to raise a lot of issues and be a point of interest for both law enforcers and internet users who want to circumvent government surveillance and intervention," said Trend Micro.
Revelations by Edward Snowden has already resulted in a spike in traffic of anonymous search engine DuckDuckGo. The company reported a jump to 9 978 118 search queries per day since the revelations of government surveillance.
People who demand to be anonymous online are trying harder to avoid the government surveillance net.
"Right now, there seems to be a race between 'extreme libertarians' and law enforcement agencies, with the former trying to find new ways to become even more anonymous and untraceable," said Trend Micro.
Beyond trading illegal drugs and criminal services, dark web users are also adept at using the resource to spread malware.
"For example, we have seen them use TOR as part of the malware configuration of prominent threats like VAWTRAK and CryptoLocker. They do this in order to avoid detection," Trend Micro reported.
Criminals openly offer stolen credit card details, passports, money laundering services and even assassination services for sale on the dark web.
'While many privacy advocates deem the Deep Web as some sort of digital safe house or demilitarised zone, some security experts might have a different view, given its power to hold, and expedite criminal pursuits," said Trend Micro.
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