The fate of your favorite bar or takeout place may have crossed your mind during lockdown, but have you taken a moment to consider how your local drug dealer’s been making out during the crisis, too?
According to a new report by cybersecurity firm Sixgill, many offline dealers flocked to the dark web amid the coronavirus lockdowns as the streets emptied and people hunkered down in their homes. The dark web, for those who may be unfamiliar, is an online ecosystem filled with websites, forums, and other platforms that aren’t visible by search engines or your regular web browser. And it’s for that very reason that illegal markets often conduct business there.
According to the report, supply for illicit online activities like malware, phishing kits, and stolen internet accounts remained constant from the end of 2019 into early 2020 when the pandemic began to pose a real threat to the U.S., while supply for the drug market surged during that same period.
In December 2019, for example, there were approximately 4,154 drugs listed for sale on the dark web’s markets. By the end of April 2020, that number had risen to 24,719.
The report also breaks down how supply of specific drugs grew during the same time period. MDMA posts went up by 224 percent, cannabis increased by 555 percent, and cocaine grew by a whopping 1,000 percent.
While the dark web drug market obviously doesn’t report sales like a publicly-traded company does, Sixgill used a fairly straightforward metric to get a sense of how sales lines up with the supply boom: product feedback.
When it came to the three aforementioned drugs, overall product feedback almost doubled over the past several months. However, this doesn’t mean drug dealers were rolling in cash.
The report found that the underground online drug market faces the same economic uncertainty as other, legal businesses do during this time of crisis. Shipping delays and concerns surrounding sterilization of deliveries hobbled drug sales early on. While the report found that most issues regarding trustworthiness between buyers and sellers have subsided, the demand for drugs never managed to quite catch up with the supply.
Dark web posts discovered by Sixgill show fears from both buyers and sellers worrying they’d catch coronavirus or get caught by police while making local deliveries. Because of these waning demand issues, Sixgill notes that the dark web’s illicit drug market saw “historic levels of bargains and discounts.”
“I’ve got great cannabis on sale due to Covid-19,” read one posting detailed in the report. “I need to clear out my stock while it’s fresh.”
Or, as one college campus LSD dealer lamented in another post: “I’m stuck with a product to move and nobody to move it to.”