Hidden drug site use increasing

AUSTRALIANS are using ``hidden'' internet sites like the ``eBay of drugs'' in increasing numbers to score their highs.

Tasmanians are not immune from the trend which sees buyers and sellers use an encrypted network that isn't part of the World Wide Web to avoid detection. 

Last week a Launceston man received a prison term for trafficking and possessing a range of hallucinogenic drugs sourced online.  

The man, who mainly used the drugs  himself, was caught with  designer psychedelics known simply by their chemical tag -  25i-nbome and BDMPEA. 

His barrister told the court that some of the drugs had been bought for just 30 each on the Silk Road. 

Known as the eBay of drugs, the now defunct Silk Road, which turned over $US1.2 billion in two years, sold everything from fake money and  fake ID to a smorgasbord of drugs.

As soon it was shut down by the FBI, other drug vendor sites filled the hole in the market. 

Tasmania Police did not respond to questions and it is unclear what measures it has in place to disrupt online drug dealing. 

Anecdotally, however, law enforcement agencies around Australia are struggling to keep up with drug dealing on what is labelled the dark web.

In response, the National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre is conducting research to draw a  more accurate picture of the Australian drug marketplace for police and others. 

NDARC's most recent report found that the number of Australian drug dealers operating on monitored underground websites had more than doubled from 53 to 129 in the six months from February 2013.

The lead author of the report, NDARC senior research officer  Joe Van Buskirk, said the  increase in the number of Australian dealers on the dark web indicated a growing confidence in them.

``The sites have increasingly advanced security features,'' he said. 

``It appears that faith in the security of dark web marketplaces has not diminished since the closure of the Silk  Road.''

Incoming police minister Rene Hidding said jurisdictions around Australia needed to come to terms with the changes.   ``We need to be vigilant, we need to be across it and we need to have contemporary laws which simply see this as another challenge from a motivated group of criminals who continue their business online rather than face-to-face on the streets,'' he said. 

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