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Finns buying drugs and driving licences on ’dark web’

Netizens in Finland are known to have bought illegal drugs using software to hide their online identity, Police said on Thursday.

Aamu-tv:ssä it-asiantuntija ja tietokirjailija Petteri Järvinen ja Keskusrikospoliisin rikoskomisario Timo Piiroinen. Image: Yle

Speaking on Yle’s breakfast programme Aamu TV, Detective Inspector Timo Piiroinen said that Finland’s National Bureau of Investigation is aware that illegal transactions are taking place, though it is not possible to give an exact figure for how many Finns have used the anonymous online marketplace.

In addition to recreational drugs, Finnish users of the anonymous message boards have even tried to obtain driving licences for 100-200 euros, added IT expert Petteri Järvinen.

Online investigation

Detective Inspector Piiroinen said that the Bureau have been carrying out investigations into illegal activity in Finland on the Tor network – an online software which allows users to hide their identity - and where it is possible to buy and sell drugs, child pornography and guns without leaving an online footprint.  He said that law enforcers are confident about their ability to police this virtual environment.

’Tor is a virtual mask and gloves which lets people operate anonymously,’ said Detective Inspector Piiroinen, ’But that does not mean it’s foolproof.’  He added that the internet can actually help police uncover information about crimes more easily.

Advantages for police

IT expert Petteri Järvinen believes police can benefit from the fact that the dark web brings illegal activity together into the same place online:  ’Tor message boards are public, meaning that the police can follow them too. Users make their initial contact online, but actual face to face meetings also happen, just as in real life.’

It is not possible to accidentally log on to the Tor network, as users must first download the software and then log on.  It is also slightly slower to use than the regular internet.  If a user accesses the online marketplace, they are therefore deemed to have done so purposefully.

Ban on web anonymity

A blanket ban on the use of anonymous online networks would not be possible, believes Järvinen. ’Use of the Tor network itself is legal and many people use it for legitimate ends, such as anonymously searching for jobs, if someone doesn’t want their identity to be known.  And in countries where free speech is limited, the dark web can be a lifeline.   

Earlier this month US authorities successfully shut down one of the dark web’s biggest virtual black markets, the Silk Road, and arrested its alleged founder.  The site is reported to have sold 1.4 million euros’ worth of black market goods every month, ranging from drugs to ATM hacking guides, stolen credit card information and contacts for hitmen.