There was a time when dark net was the online marketplace for people looking for anything from assault rifles to every possible breed of drugs under the Sun. Silk Road was the first such online black market, which was raided and shut down by law enforcement agencies in November 2013. In July 2017, in a combined international operation, authorities cracked down on the largest criminal marketplace on internet, AlphaBay, which had more than 200,000 users and 40,000 vendors involved in supplying about 250,000 items of illicit drugs and toxic chemicals.
While dark net sites — Silk Road, AlphaBay and Hansa — are not active anymore, the online business of illegal drugs, weapons and other banned objects is up and running. According to a media report, drug dealers have found a new digital platform to sell their products — the secure messaging app Wickr. Significantly, Wickr was not created as a platform to be used by dark web community.
The messaging app, founded in San Francisco in 2012, enables a highly secure communication between “teams and enterprises.” Dedicated to the privacy of other businesses, Wickr was never short of funding. As of September 2017, the company had collected around $73.3 million in funding from a fascinating list of investors, including Facebook’s first big backer Jim Breyer. It is not clear if these investors have any idea about the app being used to arrange drug deals.
How Wickr works
Wickr can be downloaded free at the App Store and Google Play and has a desktop version too. It allows users to set the duration of the long messages before disappearing and is equipped with military-grade encryption to ensure the privacy of each communication. “Wickr hides identifiable information by adding random digits to everything in the air, before mixing it all up in a mathematical algorithm several times over, a process called ‘salting and hashing.’ This means nothing is ever truly stored, making it useless for police to seize a phone,” explains the report by Vice.
The app is legal and the makers do not promote or endorse any drug dealing through it. The users have a different opinion though. Vice spoke to individuals who have been using the app for drug dealing. One of the users revealed that the app is very convenient for ordering drugs. While dark net markets were difficult to navigate, and were slow and full of phishing links, Wickr allows the drug dealing through a username and a few messages, said the user.
Illegal drug trade fuels addiction
Despite strict regulations against illegal drugs, dealers and traffickers are able to find out a way to reach out to users. Therefore, it is important to raise awareness about the harmful effects of substance misuse to discourage illegal drug dealing. Early screening, followed by right treatment of substance use disorders (SUDs), can help control drug-related crimes. One should be aware of the fact that drug addiction is a treatable disease. If an individual is grappling with substance abuse, he/she should immediately seek professional help from a reputed drug treatment provider.
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