Rogue Online Drug Marketplaces Pose Dangers for Consumers

csip_slides_cuffs_laptop_counterfeitEight months ago, the black market website, Silk Road, was shut down by the Department of Justice (DOJ) and its owner, Ross Ulbricht (aka “Dread Pirate Roberts”), was taken into custody. In November 2013, a new Silk Road website re-emerged, promising better encryption for the Web’s largest black market. The website looked a lot like the original, with listings ranging from illegal drugs for sale to counterfeit currency, passports and even hit-men for hire.

A recent study by The Digital Citizens Alliance, an Internet commerce watchdog, revealed that there are currently 13,648 listings for drugs available on Silk Road 2.0, the successor of the original anonymous marketplace. This is an increase of 5% from the 13,000 that were originally listed shortly before the FBI arrested Ulbricht and shut down Silk Road last year.

Below is a summary of the dangers that Deep Web black markets present when it comes to selling dangerous fake drugs:

  • At the time of Ulbricht’s arrest, Silk Road 2.0 had just over 18,000 listings. Today, that number has more than doubled to some 41,000 listings for illegal, potentially deadly drugs.
  • The Darknet drug economy as a whole contains 75% more listings for drugs.
  • Silk Road’s closest competitor, Agora, has roughly 7,400 drug listings. Like Silk Road 2.0, consumers are taking a big chance by patronizing Agora, or any Deep Web distributor, due to lack of regulation.
  • Silk Road and other Darknet marketplaces continue to do steady business despite the arrests of additional alleged operators who authorities say worked for Ulbricht. This shows that there are many players out there. However, law enforcement is paying attention and working tirelessly to catch these criminals.
  • Where other Darknet Marketplaces failed or were proven scams, Silk Road 2.0 operators have vowed to repay all those who lost money in a hack that occurred earlier this year (resulting in tens of millions of dollars of bitcoins being stolen). Buyers should beware because if they were hacked once, it could happen again. By purchasing from these sites, not only are you putting your health at risk–you are also leaving your identity and money vulnerable to hackers.

The next step in the evolution of the Deep Web black market appears to be DarkMarket, which is said to be a “safe untouchable marketplace that is beyond the reach of police.” Although DarkMarket and its derivatives are not yet operational, they are a clear sign that world of uncensored drug trade is growing and evolving fast. And again, law enforcement and others fighting them will be paying attention.

CSIP, its members, and law enforcement officials are now more aware of how alternative black market websites that sell drugs work and we are continuing our efforts to combat such sites. We hope that consumers will be aware of the many risks involved in using the “Deep Web”, including the risks that the drugs being sold and any drugs obtained without a prescription can be fake or substandard, or even lethal to the user, and other risks including identity theft, privacy issues, and legal ramifications.

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The Center for Safe Internet Pharmacies (CSIP) and our 13 member companies have the shared goal of helping address the growing problem of consumer access to illegitimate pharmaceutical products on the Internet. Continue to read this blog for updates on CSIP’s education, enforcement and information-sharing efforts.