You might think it foolish to advertise services such as gun, fake passport and drug dealer on the internet and, usually, you’d be right. But this isn’t the World Wide Web; this is the ‘Dark Net’, a cyber-world where confidentiality is guaranteed and anything goes.
It is the internet’s Wild West: a hidden marketplace where drug dealers, gun runners, assassins and paedophile pornographers can peddle their wares with almost no chance of being caught.
Using a programme called Tor, internet users are able to communicate in complete privacy. It was used by political activists during the Arab Spring, but is also by criminals.
The proud sales blurb on the website leaves no room for confusion. ‘Your No 1 source of illegal substances on the Web,’ it reads. ‘Fast and stealthy shipping. A+++ quality and perfect customer service. This is what DrugMarket is famous for.’
Offering everything from LSD to cocaine, heroin and ecstasy on pages laid out like those on Amazon, DrugMarket’s top seller today is ‘100g High Quality Afghan Opium First Grade’ at $2,700 (£1,670).
The service works by bouncing messages around a network of computers, adding layers of encryption as they go, meaning officials cannot see who is talking to who or what is being said. It is part funded by several prestigious organisations, including Cambridge University, and police are not looking to close it down.
Earlier this week, Google and Microsoft announced vital measures to prevent paedophiles searching for images of child abuse on the web.
The move was prompted by the murders of 12-year-old Tia Sharp and five-year-old April Jones and was hailed by child protection agencies and this newspaper.
Both Tia and April were killed by men whose perverted interest in young girls was fuelled by the pornographic websites they were able to access all too readily via Google.Computer experts have warned that the new measures would not stymie really determined paedophiles, who would search for images in the recesses of the Dark Net.
To understand what Mr Gamble the computer experts means - it is necessary to take a journey into the underbelly of the web and onto sites that never appear on Google or any other well-known search engine because Webpages such as Silk Road, still sells everything from drugs to guns, operate using Tor.
At the moment, customers and traders on most of the Dark Net go about their business untroubled by the law. In its murky channels, guns and drugs, paedophilia and murder exist alongside calls for democracy, sharia law and fascism.
Indeed, it would seem all human life is on the Dark Net, unfettered, for better or for worse. The good, the bad and the very, very ugly.
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