News coverage has played the recent operation Onymous as an international operation on the deep web but has failed to explore the trend that is born out of and its implications. The truth is the main driver of the operation is one of Europe’s most liberal countries when it comes to drugs, or at least used to be. It is not just an assault on everything deep web and drugs, but everything that is drugs.
All of this seems to spell doom for the deep web, but is not the case. While it seems like the danger level is hitting code red levels, it is far from the truth. Actually, while Onymous was the biggest operation on the deep web to date, the project which Onymous was born from actually spells success for deep web marketplaces in Europe.
ITOM, the project Onymous spawned from and created an international focus on the deep web, originates in one of Europe’s most drug friendly countries is part of a growing trend of a harsher stance towards drugs in one of Europe’s most drug friendly countries – the Netherlands.
Netherlands, Europe’s weed capital, has new government that is against drugs and drumming up Europe’s War On Drugs in sufficient ways. It has started to mandate weed shops in Amsterdam to be closed. It turns out they were never legal, they were just “allowed.” The mayor of Amsterdam has negotiated with the government to allow some of the shops to continue but that could be short lived.
They have also taken a new focus on arresting suppliers and vendors. While it is legal to consume small amounts of cannabis, it is not legal at all to grow and supply shops. Creating a illegal and grey market, on the brink of black, fragile supporting Netherlands commercial weed trade.
Netherlands’ current prime minister, Mark Rutte, comes from the economically liberal but socially conservative party of the People’s Party for Freedom and Democracy. Though keen on being business friendly, they turn their back on any business that deals in illegal businesses, such as drugs. He has been leading the crusade in the Dutch government to get rid of their friendly stance towards drugs.
His main focus has been to put suppliers and vendors in prison and to stop rampant drug tourism in cities like Amsterdam. Several programs that have tried to hamper the tourist drug trade has been met with ample protests and opposition. The drug tourism is huge as well. Some shops report that 70% of their customers are Belgium nations, Netherlands neighboring country.
So what does all of this has to do with the deep web?
It means more adoption of the deep web.
The street drug trade is going to be suffer hard than the deep web’s. This will remove the supply in some of Europe’s most drug heavy markets, but it will not remove the demand. That major gap in supply will cause the migration of dealers and consumers to the deep web at an even faster rate.
Taking down street dealers and the “physical drug trade” is much easier because they have done it in the past and being anonymous is very hard when you have meet with people in person to do deals. There is more resources and expertise surrounding the street trade. The deep web is a growing, but still relatively small focus.
You also got to think of it from the point of view of dealers and consumers.
The dealer view is that law enforcement is very bad for business. It takes a lot of time, resources, and connections to build a business, even illegal ones. If your operation gets shut down, but you imagine to escape jail time, it is very hard to start you business back (if you do get arrested, it will be quite easy to be dealing again but prison is not ideal). Not only do you have to get all the pieces back in place to start operations up again but you also need to get well known and trusted.
On the deep web, everything is digital or in other words, cheap. One market could be shut down one day and you are doing business in 2 others the same day.
Getting arrested is even worse for business. This is true in the street trade and web trade but the deep web is much more resistant to law enforcement. Besides working with technology that most cops might understand how to use but are no way close to breaking or hacking, you are playing with totally different cards than street dealers. You have ample more protection from police, as well as, from follow dealers. The worst things a dealer is going to do is leave a fake bad review, which is a big improve from breaking your legs. Your identity is concealed behind Tor, the same network the world’s spy agencies use. Your communication are protected by the Fort Knox of encryption – PGP.
Same protections apply to buyers, who don’t have to worry about getting robbed, but they most benefit from the consumer experience of the deep web. The selection on the deep web is far greater and more diverse than any street dealers. The quality tends to be higher as while and you are able to see reviews about the products you are going to buy. Perhaps, the most attractive thing is that the goods are delivered to the comfort of your home.
It is also very important to point out, while ITOM and Onymous showed that there is a greater interest than ever in the deep web by law enforcement, that interest is still quite trivial. At least from what has been revealed about the operation so far no advance techniques were used and instead, the usual tactics were used.
Silk Road was taken down because the Defcon had an ego bigger EastCoastCollective’s and the OPSEC of Sheep Marketplace’s founder. A mole was implemented in Silk Road 2.0 from the beginning and quickly got high level access.
The 400+ domains were seized but multiple domains belonged to individual businesses. Most of these were small time deep web businesses, who probably had equally poor security. Regardless, while a pain, setting up a new domain is not impossible or nearly as bad as getting severs captured. And very few servers were actually captured.
The Bulgarian police said that 129 sites taken down in Operation Onymous were being hosted by one company. That could easily account for all the sites mentioned in the reports as closed. The police might of just got lucky and cashed in on this jackpot of illegal businesses.
So it is safe to say, the NSA’s elite units are not anywhere close to needing to get involved to take down the web’s most wanted criminals. There was a lot of non-technical ways and low hanging fruit the police finally decided to pluck.
It isn’t trivial either that is the Netherlands. Netherlands is basically the drug capital of the Europe and their harder stance on drug will really disrupt the European drug trade. Besides weed, psychedelics and MDMA are also reasons why Europeans come from all over to visit country. The country’s MDMA is some of the best known in the world.
This will leave some of Europe’s biggest drug markets without a supply. While it is likely other European countries, like Portugal or Spain, will adopt a more liberal stance on drugs to capitalize on the gap in the drug market, but it won’t be the same for the likes of Germans, Belgians, and other the usual customers of Netherland’s drugs who won’t have a supply right next door.
The suppliers will move to other parts of the continent but the demand won’t. The deep will prove a great alternative for these unsatisfied consumers. People will be able to sit at home and buy a global market. That removes the problem of local sources.
To summarize all this up for you the deep web is going to grow in Europe because of these reasons.
- Greater focus will be on the street trade.
- Consumers and dealers in the street trade will see how the deep web is more resistant and that it gives people who participate in it more security.
- Has their friends and areas are left with little to no suppliers or dealers, they will turn to the deep web for more security and for better quality/variety of goods.
- As the local supplies dry up, they will turn to the global online marketplaces for a supply.
- The social network effects that the street trade used to possess, and now belong to the deep web and the whole growth is quicken.