The dark web has been flooded with illicit drug listings during the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: iStock
The dark web has been flooded with illicit drug listings during the coronavirus lockdown. Picture: iStock

Illicit drug supply booms on dark web

Drug trade on a hidden corner of the internet has surged by almost 500 per cent as dealers move their illicit wares online due to coronavirus lockdowns.

Illegal drug listings on the dark web - which requires specialised software to access - surged by 495 per cent between December 23, 2019 and April 27, 2020, as dealers looked for new ways to trade while people were stuck indoors.

New listings for cocaine skyrocketed 1000 per cent, from 140 listings in December to 1541 April, the report by cyber intelligence firm Sixgill found.

Cannabis postings on the digital underground marketplaces grew by more than 500 per cent from 896 to 5425 posts over the same period, while MDMA listings grew 224 per cent, from 551 to 1786 listings.

 

Cocaine listings on the dark web grew by 1000 per cent between December and April. Picture: iStock
Cocaine listings on the dark web grew by 1000 per cent between December and April. Picture: iStock

 

"The supply-side growth reflects a mass shift from street-level dealing to the digital underground as the pandemic emptied streets and public places," Sixgill researchers said in their report.

"Like all consumers, dark web shoppers may have been driven to online shopping due to fear of physical contact."

Sixgill researchers said while listings had surged, it was more difficult to establish the exact number of sales that have occurred as illegal marketplaces do not record this data.

However, feedback on listings grew from 97,616 in December last year, to more than 310,000 in March, suggesting a "significant rise in transactions". But it began to fall again in April as lockdown restrictions were eased.

Illicit drug dealers were also forced to slash their prices when demand did not keep up with supply.

"While supply surged, demand lagged and never caught up, rising later and at a slower pace. That led to a 10-fold surge in mentions of 'bargains' and 'discounts' in early 2020," the researchers said.

"That's not only a response to oversupply, but a reaction to consumers' precarious economic situation during the economic freeze."

 

 

It comes after law enforcers revealed to News Corp the price of the illicit drug 'ice' was up by 20 per cent as the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted supply lines.

Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission chief Michael Phelan told a Senate Joint Committee in early May that the coronavirus had no doubt impacted the illicit market not just for ice but other substances like cocaine too.

He said it was not yet clear whether it was impacted supply chains that had caused dealers to up their prices by 20 per cent, or whether it was due to opportunism.

"But our intelligence does suggest organised criminals outside Australia are having difficulty bringing products to market and that makes sense with world trade the way it is," Mr Phelan said at the time.

He hoped that if supplies were restricted over the period of the pandemic, a reduction in demand would eventuate.

Mr Phelan said he had ordered his officers to fast-track raw reporting sampling and analysis being done for the 11th Waste Water analysis report, which would reveal drug usage during life in lockdown.

 

Originally published as Illicit drug supply booms on dark web



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