New Delhi: Buying illegal items has never been easier. With a click
of a mouse, one can purchase almost any illegal commodity and get it
delivered to any location worldwide. Be it an automatic pistol, or drugs
from western countries, the mysterious world of Dark Web has it all.
One can browse through the dark web marketplaces like People’s Drugs
Store, Cannabis UK, Wacky Weeds, AlphaBay, etc and avail any illegal
commodity from these e-shopping portals available on the dark web.
“We deliver Heroin, Cocaine, Cannabies and Ecstasy. We ship to all
the countries worldwide with best quality products at competitive
prices,” assures ‘People’s Drug Store’. Another dealer called
‘SmokeAbles’, which has listed India among its convenient shipping
locations, claims that, “We are one of the few online dealers having
access to original and organic Kush Cannabis.”
Not just drugs, but other highly illegal things like child
pornography, firearms, and even assassins are available for hire on the
Dark web or dark net is a term that refers specifically to a
collection of websites that exist on an encrypted network. It cannot be
accessed by a normal internet user, as sites available on the dark net
are not indexed by normal web browsers like Chrome or search engines
like Yahoo or Bing. The dark web is hidden on the darkest corner of the
internet which can be accessed with special browsers like ‘The Onion
Router’ or TOR browser.
“Dark web uses a technique called onion routing where IP address of a
person is difficult to track. It uses certain software to conceal true
location and identity of a person. Due to its anonymity, it is often
used by criminals to do illegal trade of drugs or selling of porn,” said
Karnika Seth, a cyber crime expert and Supreme Court advocate.
Once an order is placed on the dark web portal, the payment is
allowed only in bitcoins. Bitcoin payment does not adhere to ‘Know Your
Customer’ (KYC) norms, which hides the identity of the customer and the
service provider. International transaction through bitcoins in India is
illegal as it violates the banking norm. Regular e-commerce websites
follow KYC norms for executing cross-border payments.
After the arrest of the Sahu brothers in Telangana in 2015, law
enforcement agencies across India realised how the dark web was thriving
as an unregulated channel. The duo purchased LSD (Lysergic acid
diethylamide) paper from the dark web and sold it locally across India.
After the case was busted, it was observed that metropolitan cities like
Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad are the hotspots for online drugs trade
“We are completely aware about the dark web, but we cannot shut it
down or stop users from accessing it. Instead, we monitor the activities
on the dark web through TOR browser and find out if there are Delhi
related activities going on,” said a senior officer from Delhi Police’s
cyber crime cell. “Besides the cyber crime cell, other law enforcement
agencies are also working on dark web,” he further added.
While TOR browser – which gives access to dark web – assures
anonymity, senior officer revealed that Delhi police have technology
which intercepts and back traces the users on the dark web. “Users on
dark web are not completely anonymous. Activities on dark web can be
back traced with specialised software which is available with Delhi
police. The software traces the data transferred by intercepting the
wavelength and has the ability to back trace it,” he explained.
In India, accessing dark web is not illegal. “If done with a criminal
intent, it becomes an offence to conceal one’s identity. But if done
with bona fide intention, it will not be illegal,” Karnika Seth said.
The Information Technology Act has specific provisions to deal with
cyber crimes in India. “If one engages in child pornography, Section 67B
of IT Act prescribes punishment of upto 5 years for the accused,” Seth
While dark web has turned out to be a tool for criminal activities
due to complete anonymity, it is also a platform for scientists,
government officials, professors and others who are just looking for
“Privacy has become greatest concern in today’s world Internet. Many
people are looking to browse the web without anyone keeping an eye on
them,” said Castor Godinho, a Tor user. He lamented that Tor browser was
developed for good purpose but now it used as a tool to enter into dark
Aftab Shaikh is a freelance journalist currently pursuing Masters degree in Journalism from AJK MCRC, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi.