Investigator shocked at what was found for sale

Johnston Press Investigations team member Deborah Punshon went on the Dark Web with an expert and was shocked at what she found for sale.

Wednesday, 26th July 2017, 1:03 pm
Updated Monday, 11th September 2017, 12:45 pm

When you shop online, items that come from a recommended trader who will ship you products immediately are instantly attractive.

If vendors display their credentials, such as the number of transactions they have had and their current feedback rating, then even better.

And the icing on the cake comes when they provide extras like 24-hour customer support, bulk buying discounts and special rates for returning customers.

Although it sounds like Amazon or eBay, I’m browsing a very different online marketplace.

This site on the Dark Web popular with young people sells drugs and weapons as well as a whole host of other unsavoury goods and services.

Getting on these types of sites isn’t overly difficult and possessing what you need to go on them isn’t illegal.

Using The Onion Router (TOR) and sometimes coupling it with a virtual private network (VPN), users of the Dark Web can share information and trade illegal items anonymously.

From a teaching room in Forth Valley College in Falkirk, I am given a tour of the Dark Web by ethical hacker and lecturer Susan Gardner.

But as far as other web users are concerned, we’re in Switzerland.

Susan says: “Think of the worst thing you can buy on the web and the Dark Web offers 10 times worse.”

We go through the encryption process to access a world that is estimated to be around 500 times the size of what most of us know as the internet.

Despite the innocuous address, we arrive on a Dark Net marketplace.

Drugs – over 18,000 of them – are for sale.

There’s 500 290ml MDMA for $900, and as we look at it, we can see that 12,326 other people are viewing it too.

There’s one gram of pure cocaine for $60 or double purified LSD for $17.

We can also buy 25 Gummy Bears, laced with THC and it will be with us by tomorrow, wrapped in decoy packaging.

Payment is taken in Bitcoin - the digital payment systems that needs no middle man.

The vendors have great reputations; many boast having had over 10,000 successful transactions and some claim to be “experts in soft and hard drugs”.

If you need some documentation, it’s not a problem: passports, visas and driving licences are widely available.

Monetary notes - Euros and Dollars in particular - are for sale as are cloned credit cards.

Credits card number complete with CVV codes litter the site as do the details of customers of companies who have suffered a data loss.

“Drugs are probably the most commonly sold,” says Susan, “but credit card fraud is massive.

“This is how people get defrauded. Their credit card details get onto someone’s database and it’s sold on the Dark Web.”

Services are also for sale: everything from cracking passwords or clearing your credit score to boosting the number of Instagram followers you have.

You can also rent a team of professional car thieves or buy the IP addresses of paedophiles.

While porn and drugs appear to be the most popular, Tasers, Glocks and AK47s can be quickly delivered with sellers claiming they can be couriered to your door.

“This is the tip of the iceberg,” says Susan. “We could have gone even deeper.”

• The marketplace used for this article - Hansa - was reportedly shut down on July 20 following an international law enforcement investigation.