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It can be said that crypto-currency is a form of digital currency. Crypto-currency has no physical existence and has no tangible form. Crypto-currency unlike other forms of currency can only be used to pay for goods and services purchased online (Bray 2016). However, it can be said that the way crypto-currencies have been developed and managed over the short span of years since the concept of crypto currency was invented is note worthy. Crypto-currencies unlike other forms of currencies like dollars, euro is not backed by the government and therefore the government has no control over its production and cannot monitor it (Sammons 2015). It is to be noted that the use of crypto currency has been closely associated with the various cybercrimes as it cannot be tracked.
It can be said that crypto currency can be defined as a set of entries in a database that no one but the owner has control over. Thus it means that the entries in the database cannot be changed by any central governing authority. In case of normal currencies, the entries in the database are changed by the bank authorities or the authorities who have been entrusted with the money. It can be stated that in both the cases the change of the entries in the database is done by obtaining the authority of the individual who possess the money. However, in case of crypto currency the database is operated and monitored by a network of computers belonging to different entities. It can also be said that crypto currencies have unbelievable growth rate (Walton and Dhillon 2017). The value of Bitcoin, one of the most popular crypto-currencies had reached a record high of $6,942.77 in November 2017. It has also shown enormous growth rate in a single year, starting from $800 in January 2017 and reaching the record high of $6,942.77 in November 2017.
One of the important features of crypto currency is that it is anonymous and decentralized. Therefore crypto-currency cannot be tracked easily. As stated earlier crypto currency databases cannot be changed by a single entity. The database in which the information of crypto-currency is stored is called blockchain (Walton and Dhillon 2017). Blockchain is basically a digital ledger which uses encryption to prevent the creation of unregulated money and transfer of such digital money into funds. It is because of this reason that people can make payments securely and can invest in digital currency anonymously without intimating the bank authorities. The database of blockchain is not stored in on particular location and the records of such database are easily available to public. It can be stated that all crypto-currency are monitored by miners, who are members of general public who have setup machines to validate and process transactions.
It is to be mentioned that although crypto-currency is very secure, the technology used in maintain the aforementioned databases is often misused by unprincipled miscreant programmers. Although the systems of maintaining the databases of crypto-currency are far more superior than the database systems which are centralized poor coding by its practitioners have made it vulnerable to risks of fraud and crimes. According to an anonymous survey ten to twenty percentage of the total bitcoins are possessed by criminals. While previously crypto-currency proved to be the ultimate solution and next big thing in the stock market, a major hack of its database in 2011 showed the world how insecure crypto-currency is and how easily it can be stolen. Over the last decade billions of dollars worth of Bitcoins have been stolen which has been the reason of committing suicide for several people. It is also to be mentioned that Crypto currency has often been used as a medium of transaction in Black Markets as it is the easiest and most preferred method of payment for the people dealing in such black markets. Crypto-currency has also been used to aid money laundering (Brenig, Accorsi and Müller 2015).
There is an underground economy in operation in the form of darknet markets which also known as online black market (Ablon, Libicki and Golay 2014). It is to be noted that the online black markets are infamous for selling illegal drugs, weapons, fake identification and fake credit card details. There are many websites which are closely associated with the online black markets. The aforementioned websites contain illegal videos, malwares. It was found out during an investigation to collect evidence against the infamous web site Silk Road, known for selling illegal drugs to customers, that majority of the payments made to the online dark websites were in crypto-currencies (Kethineni, Cao and Dodge 2017). It is also to be mentioned that the online black markets and darknet websites have been involved in several scams and have abruptly shut down after taking thousands of dollars worth of Bitcoins from its customers. Some of the leading websites of the online black market are Alphabay Market, Silk Road3.0, Dream market and crypto market.
Silk Road is an online dark market where illegal drugs are sold. It was the forts modern dark market. As it is a part of the dark-web it operated as a hidden service provided by the Tor Browser. This website could be easily accessed by the online users while remaining anonymous without being monitored. The website was launched in 2011 and was the biggest platform where illegal drugs and other illegal commodities were sold anonymously on a global scale (Dolliver and Poorman 2018). It is to be stated that during the early years of the operations of the aforementioned website only a few seller accounts were listed. Over the years popularity of the website grew and attracted new sellers to buy accounts in the aforementioned website following an auction. However, later a fixed fee was charged for the admission of every new seller account. In 2013 the original Silk Road website was shut down and the administrator of the website Ross William Ulbricht was arrested. It again became operational later that year. It was again started by one of its former administrators.
The online black market accounts for twenty percent of the gross domestic product of the world. The online dark or black markets are known for selling illegal products and services anonymously. However, the online black market covers a vast domain of illegal activity. It can be stated that most of the transactions in these markets involve crypto-currency. Most of the payments made to these darknet markets are in crypto currency. The black market, Silk Road was launched as a secret service only accessible on the dark web in 2011. The Silk Road later became the biggest marketplace for selling drugs and illegal substances. The technology used in the creation of Silk Road kept the details of its customers anonymous. Therefore, anyone could order narcotic substances anonymously from the marketplace just like ordering from the other popular online stores and have the drugs delivered to their mail. Silk Road only accepted Bitoins as the mode of payment (Engle 2015). It held the Bitcoins until the buyer and seller were satisfied with the transactions. The primary idea behind forming Silk Road was to bring into existence an anonymous anarchist market based on Libertarian philosophies . It can be said that Silk Road became a cult darkweb market and became popular among the youngsters for the purpose of buying drugs and narcotic substances. It made thousands of individuals to buy Bitcoins simply for the purpose of transacting with Silk Road. By the year 2013 the transactions done by Silk Road accounted for over 10 percentage of Bitcoin transactions all over the world. After the shutting down of Silk Road other darknet markets kept on processing more Bitcoins than Bitpay. This illustrated that the use of Bitcoins in the online black markets significantly contributed to the growth of Bitcoins. The creator of the cult online black market, Ross Ulbricht had actually been successful in pointing out the that the potential of Bitcoin is enormous and it can be used to promote the economy of the darknet markets. However, it is to be stated that the occurrences of exit scams are not unheard of in the online dark markets. Exit scams that have occurred involved disappearance of the entire marketplace with the Bitcoins of the customers and the sellers. It can be said that Bitcoins are not only associated with drug trafficking but also with a plethora of cyber crimes. Bitcoins have become the favorable currency for cyber hackers, cyber criminals (Doran 2014). They sell credit card details and other classified data.
It can be said that dark web is a zone where law enforcement has not been done effectively therefore choosing effective measures to restrict the operations of dark websites such as Silk Road is essential. Crooks sell drugs anonymously via the aforementioned dark websites. The dark web is a hidden platform and thus has to be dealt with strategically by the law enforcement authorities. Creation of Joint Operations Cell unit as proposed by the British law enforcement authorities and the National Crime agency is an effective measure. This unit will closely monitor the activities being done anonymously help to reduce the sale of illicit and illegal substance on the darkweb sites. The aforementioned unit will act address cyber crimes specifically. Dark websites such as the Silk Road are operated anonymously therefore shutting down the website is not the ultimate solution. The governments of different countries of the world and the police bodies are focusing on training a new generation of agents who will specialize in cyber crimes (Moore and Rid 2016). It can be said that the new generation of agents need to master the new technology of the anonymizing network to bring law enforcement on the operators of the dark websites.
Thus to conclude it can be said that with the advent of the new generation of crypto currencies the business of the online dark markets are on the rise. It can be said that crypto- currencies decentralized and digital currencies which are updated on a block chain database and the no single entity has complete control over it. Therefore the transactions made with crypto currencies cannot be tracked easily. Crypto currency has shown enormous growth rate. However due to poor coding, cases of Bitcoin theft have occurred multiple times in the past. It can also said that Bitcoin still remains one the favored currencies of the cyber criminals and the darknet markets.
Ablon, L., Libicki, M.C. and Golay, A.A., 2014. Markets for Cybercrime Tools and Stolen Information: Hackers' Bazaar. RAND CORP ARLINGTON VA NATIONAL SECURITY RESEARCH DIV.
Bray, J., 2016. Anonymity, Cybercrime and the Connection to Cryptocurrency (Doctoral dissertation, Eastern Kentucky University).
Brenig, C., Accorsi, R. and Müller, G., 2015, May. Economic Analysis of Cryptocurrency Backed Money Laundering. In ECIS.
Brown, S.D., 2016. Cryptocurrency and criminality: The Bitcoin opportunity. The Police Journal, 89(4), pp.327-339.
Dolliver, D.S. and Poorman, K., 2018. Understanding Cybercrime. Transnational Crime and Global Security [2 volumes], p.139.
Doran, M.D., 2014. A forensic look at Bitcoin cryptocurrency (Doctoral dissertation, Utica College).
Engle, E., 2015. Is Bitcoin Rat Poison: Cryptocurrency, Crime, and Counterfeiting (CCC). J. High Tech. L., 16, p.340.
Holt, T.J. ed., 2016. Cybercrime Through an Interdisciplinary Lens (Vol. 26). Taylor & Francis.
Kethineni, S., Cao, Y. and Dodge, C., 2017. Use of Bitcoin in Darknet Markets: Examining Facilitative Factors on Bitcoin-Related Crimes. American Journal of Criminal Justice, pp.1-17.
Levi, M., Doig, A., Gundur, R., Wall, D. and Williams, M.L., 2016. The implications of economic cybercrime for policing.
Sammons, J. ed., 2015. Digital Forensics: Threatscape and Best Practices. Syngress.
Walton, J.B. and Dhillon, G., 2017. Understanding Digital Crime, Trust, and Control in Blockchain Technologies.
Moore, D. and Rid, T., 2016. Cryptopolitik and the Darknet. Survival, 58(1), pp.7-38.
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