A recent warning from the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) shows the organization to be concerned about a new wave of dark web operators who are sending firearms to Canadians through sophisticated shipping methods.
Rob O’Reilly, RCMP’s interim director of firearms regulatory services, points to cryptocurrencies as partially responsible for the emergence of this new market, saying that digital coins help hide these illicit sales from the authorities.
“Such currencies present a real challenge for law enforcement because it doesn’t physically reside somewhere, making it hard to trace without special, very expensive software and highly trained personnel to do the work,” he said.
Although maintains a degree of popularity in dark web circles, it can still easily be traced due to the exchange-level regulations popping up in many countries.
The new black markets have since adopted other cryptocurrencies to keep the authorities off the scent.
In a recent study, Recorded Futures revealed that , , Monero, and Ether are all becoming the cryptocurrencies of choice for criminals.
The cryptocurrency market, however, isn’t entirely to blame for Canada’s new underground market for weapons.
During a symposium on gun-related violence, O’Reilly presented the photo of a rifle magazine that was sold to an Ontario resident by a vendor in Montana through the dark web.
“Darknet vendors resort to very ingenious means to ship firearms and related components. In the darknet community, this is known as stealth shipping, and the intent is to disguise or hide the actual contents from law enforcement and border services,” he added.
Although the FBI shut down the first iteration of the Silk Road in 2013 and the second in 2014, other markets have begun to pop up and create more problems for authorities.
Many of these markets are unregulated and contain swaths of offers ranging from heroin to radioactive isotopes.
Some buyers source their materials from different parts of the world, picking locations where certain components are not illegal to acquire.
This practice makes it even more challenging for authorities to trace the sales of firearms, since local governments on the other end might not be as concerned about particular components being in the possession of their citizens.
O’Reilly concludes that training for police forces needs to be “continually updated” to combat the ever-changing nature of black markets on the internet today, especially considering their international nature.
The black market has become much more complex since the disappearance of Silk Road and the sinking popularity of Bitcoin as a vehicle for criminals. Canadian police now have their hands full with more sophisticated operators who use better methods to conceal their transactions.
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