The growing drug trade on the dark net is very difficult to disrupt and national police need to set up specialist investigation teams, according to an EU report.
While the monetary value is low, Ireland has a trade in drug sales on the dark net, the EU’s drugs and police agencies have said.
In a report, ‘Drugs and the Darknet’, two agencies said that the hidden online network was very resilient and was able to “quickly absorb law enforcement actions” such as the takedown of a major marketplace.
It said that most communication between sellers and buyers on dark net markets now involve multilayered encryption.
It said encryption communication services enable criminals to “effectively and indefinitely hide critical evidence and activities” from police and customs.
The report, compiled by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction and Europol, said that half of EU member states surveyed had noticed an increase in the use of encrypted email.
It said all these developments provide “serious challenges” for investigators.
In addition, it said evidence had emerged that instant messaging and social media applications using GPS technologies were being used for drug distribution in some cities.
“There is a need for ‘capacity building’ and increased investment,” said the report.
“EU member states are often faced with significant skills gaps for conducting investigations on the darknet, and many authorities lack experts who have both a technical understanding of cybercrime investigation and expertise in operational drug-related crime activities.”
The report said Europol was now promoting national darknet investigations teams and that the agency was establishing such a unit in its headquarters in the Hague.
It said national teams need to have sufficient technical capabilities and specialist, dedicated resources.
The report said that drug sales — namely of hallucinogens, cannabis, and dissociatives — in the region of about €200,000 were sold from Ireland between 2011 and 2015.
Germany, the UK, and the Netherlands had the biggest sales, of €18m to €27m, in the same period.
The report said that while most sellers were individuals selling relatively small quantities, many of the top sellers were likely to be organised crime groups earning significant profits.
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