Dark web criminals switch to popular apps to sell drugs, using bots and secret graffiti messages to do business
(Source: independent.co.uk)

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(Original link: independent.co.uk)

Logout A graffiti-covered wall with a giant hashtag sign near Moscow’s Kursky railway station. Criminal gangs are using tags to advertise channels on popular apps like Telegram where people can buy drugs ( AFP/Getty ) Dark web criminals switch to popular apps to sell drugs, using bots and secret graffiti messages to do business
Graffiti and hashtags in public places direct people to drug dealers’ accounts on encrypted messaging apps like Telegram Click to followThe Independent Tech
Dark web drug dealers are turning to popular apps to peddle their products, often using street graffiti to advertise their accounts to customers, and automated bots to communicate with them.
The shift follows a crackdown on illicit online markets, together with the introduction of encryption into apps that allows users to remain anonymous.
Cyber experts have observed this growing trend among the criminal underground, noting the innovative tactics gangs employ to evade police detection. We’ll tell you what’s true. You can form your own view.
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Speaking anonymously to The Independent , a dark web researcher who has infiltrated channels on the messaging app Telegram explained how automated bots are used to communicate with customers – both for convenience and to defer liability.
The researcher shared images of the channel names spray-painted on walls near transport hubs and other public places in order to advertise the channels to potential customers. Shape 1/6 Guns on the dark web Guns for sale on a dark web market place, August 2018 Screenshot 2/6 Dream Market vendor guidelines Some popular market places on the dark web still abide by a set of standards, despite selling illegal goods and services Screenshot 3/6 'Mystery box' for sale on the dark web A 'mystery box' for sale on the dark web, August 2018. Scam listings for the boxes first began appearing on the dark web after fake videos of people opening them trended on YouTube Screenshot 4/6 Religious texts on the dark web Religious and banned texts can be found on the dark web, allowing people to bypass censors in countries that suppress free speech Screenshot 5/6 Seeking help and advice on the dark web The Hidden Guru site on the dark web, offering 'knowledge from beyond', August 2018 Screenshot Waiting for a response from the dark web's Hidden Guru, August 2018 Screenshot 1/6 Guns on the dark web Guns for sale on a dark web market place, August 2018 Screenshot 2/6 Dream Market vendor guidelines Some popular market places on the dark web still abide by a set of standards, despite selling illegal goods and services Screenshot 3/6 'Mystery box' for sale on the dark web A 'mystery box' for sale on the dark web, August 2018. Scam listings for the boxes first began appearing on the dark web after fake videos of people opening them trended on YouTube Screenshot 4/6 Religious texts on the dark web Religious and banned texts can be found on the dark web, allowing people to bypass censors in countries that suppress free speech Screenshot 5/6 Seeking help and advice on the dark web The Hidden Guru site on the dark web, offering 'knowledge from beyond', August 2018 Screenshot Waiting for a response from the dark web's Hidden Guru, August 2018 Screenshot
Another major change in the way these drug dealers operate is in the use of “dead drops” to distribute the product. This bypasses the dangers of meeting face-to-face, while also avoiding the risk of drugs being tracked or intercepted through the postal system.
Goods are instead hidden in publicly accessible places, such as parks, before the location is sent to the customer once the purchase has been made. Semi-anonymous cryptocurrencies like bitcoin facilitate the payments.
The dropgangs, as they have been dubbed, were first discovered operating in Ukraine but have since been observed in Russia, the Balkans and most of central and eastern Europe.
Europol special adviser Rik Ferguson points to the end-to-end encryption and limited identity checks that make apps like Telegram attractive to the gangs.
“Criminals operate increasingly like businesses today, and they need reliable communication tools to get their job done,” Mr Ferguson, who also heads up research at cyber security firm Trend Micro, told The Independent .
“Telegram has become the tool of choice for criminals but it is not the first app to be put to nefarious use. Channels such as WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger had their day in the criminal underworld too, so Telegram will likely not be the last.”
Telegram previously gained notoriety after it became the communication tool of choice for the Is is, however, there has since been a significant crackdown on channels that harbour terrorist activity.
More recently, an investigation uncovered images of child abuse and stolen credit card numbers being openly traded through Telegram – once again pointing to the trend of encrypted apps taking over from the...