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The darknet has become the hotspot for certain illegal activities. The use of cryptocurrencies and anonymous routing protocols has made it hard for the law enforcement agencies to tackle the issue. However, during investigations, the European law enforcement authorities have learned that being patient can be rewarding.
One of the European publications recently published an interview with the Attorney General of Zentralstelle zur Bekämpfung der Internetkriminalität (ZIT), Andreas May. According to May, ZIT (translates to the Central Office for Combatting Cybercrime) operatives work over long periods, infiltrating the network of drug and contraband sellers before they could make arrests.
The agency mainly focuses on offenses related to weapons, drugs and child pornography. Giving a brief insight into the workings of the agency, May stated that the investigators first pose as buyers to gain seller’s trust. After few interactions, they compromise the devices belonging to the dealer. Once the seller’s phones and computers are compromised, the agents start impersonating them and send the merchandise to buyers.
Eventually, they apprehend buyers in the process of accessing the sold merchandise. The process, which seems simple enough, takes a lot of time, but the success rate of convictions through this method is quite high. In many instances, the buyers are unaware of the change in source, and they continue to believe that they are interacting with the genuine, trusted seller.
May stated that the investigating agency has been successful when it comes to arms and drug trade, but in cases of child pornography, they have had limited success. The challenges arise due to the legal issues, especially in cases where the suspect asks the undercover law enforcement agent to upload pics of his own (forcing them to commit an offense).
The rapid development and easy access to encryption and privacy tools among masses have pushed ZIT to be well-prepared to tackle the issue. May believes that the improving technology has had a negligible impact on the illegal activities and it is not always necessary for people to conduct illegal transactions on the darknet. One can even find those things on Google if they know how and where to find it.
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