Online drugs networks in Africa

September 8, 2012

A confidential report has revealed how Africa’s security agencies are struggling to deal with booming online illicit drug markets. The last few years has seen drug lords promise users high levels of security and anonymity. The report shows that police in most African countries are struggling to cope as traditional drug distribution networks give way to burgeoning online drug stores. The report focused on the notorious East and West Africa drug marketplace where illicit drugs buyers and sellers are protected with encryption through unnamed network. The popularity of the websites selling drugs online in East and West Africa are quickly expanding to Southern African countries. Accurate numbers were difficult to obtain but the report notes that the number of registrations for the online drug barons rose by 3,000 on August 15 to almost 9,000 by the beginning of September with the number of legitimate users marketplace said to be much higher.Most element of online drugs transactions is wrapped in security since most sites operates as hidden services by hiding its server IP address, while users connect through the various networks which are constantly tested for security holes by users. The report also shows how users buy drugs, weapons that end up in the hands of criminals and other contraband through the untraceable coin online currency.

The users further boost security by discussing techniques to hide drugs from customs and postal services, and by vetting the integrity of sellers and their products. This information sharing was so effective that the report notes existing forensic examination of posted items and packaging yields no information, pointing to the sophistication of postage techniques.The report said the impact of the open discussion on the security of the drug marketplace cannot be underrated and suggests security agencies should heed the lessons and use power vested to them to combat the online drug marketplace in Africa.Police around the continent should benefit from research and development undertaken within unspecified national security agencies that will help combat the mushrooming online drug stores. Use of social engineering, intersections between online transactions and the real world, and by targeting user error can help tackle the problem as well. Compulsive users may become frustrated by the relatively slow speed of network as compared to broadband Internet, which may tempt them to stray off network.Lack of political goodwill has hindered joint initiatives by regional security agencies which could provide policy advice to improve cross jurisdictional policing initiatives.

Contador Harrison