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How the internet is disrupting the drugs trade

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disrupting the drugs trade

Speaking with the Independent this week, Professor Adam R Winstock, a psychiatrist who founded the Global Drug Survey, said people living in major cities across the world can now have cocaine delivered to them faster than a takeaway pizza. In London, New York and Berlin, the dark web and encrypted messaging platforms such as WhatsApp are allowing dealers to take orders online and offer superfast delivery to their customers’ doorsteps, so long as they are willing to pay a premium for the service. Instead of peddling their wares on the street, where the spread of CCTV has made it all but impossible to sell drugs without being caught on camera, dealers are now embracing new technology, which is revolutionising the trade in illicit substances in numerous countries around the globe.

The Deliveroo-style drop-off services are just one way in which the internet has disrupted drug dealing, moving the trade from street corners, bars and nightclubs to cyberspace. Proponents of the maturing online drugs marketplace argue that it offers a safer experience for buyers, removing the necessity to physically meet with dealers, but it has also made it much easier to buy substances that would previously have taken some effort to get hold of. Where purchasing drugs might once have involved numerous phone calls and travelling to meet a dealer who might not show up or run off with their money, buyers can now have their substance of choice delivered to their home in a few mouse clicks.

The dark web drug revolution has also resulted in the strength of narcotics sold on the internet increasing, as dealers seek to establish a reputation for quality through eBay-style feedback systems and online word of mouth. In the UK, drug users can now buy 85%-pure cocaine for as little as £40 ($55) a gram. Street cocaine in Britain can be as little as 20% pure. While this might be seen as a boon to some users, experts have warned that a new wave of super-strength drugs could put inexperienced users’ lives at risk. In a recent Reddit thread, an online drugs tester cautioned that consuming 85%-pure cocaine could result in users winding up in hospital. “This is very potent and users should be very careful with initial dosing – 100 MG will not be fun,” the tester wrote. “A UK user, who thinks they are experienced but buys low-quality cocaine in pubs and takes a 300MG dose, could end up in A&E. Please don’t be Billy big b****cks and try and impress your friends that you have the best cocaine available. Seeing your mate foaming at the mouth is no fun.”

The online drugs trade has also seen the potency of ecstasy rocket over recent years – a phenomenon that has coincided with the number deaths linked to the drug rising to a 10-year high across Europe. In the UK, a typical ecstasy tablet now contains 108mg of MDMA, compared with around 80mg per pill in the drug’s late-eighties/early-nineties heyday. Last month, reporters from Britain’s Daily Star newspaper discovered ecstasy tablets containing 200mg of MDMA for sale on the dark web, which is enough to kill. Some pills are now so potent that dealers warn potential customers to only take one half at a time. The UK, which experienced the highest number of drug overdose deaths in Europe last year, has seen multiple ecstasy-related deaths over recent years, resulting in London’s iconic Fabric nightclub being closed down after a number of young revellers lost their lives at the venue after taking the drug. Last month, dark web drug dealer Kurt Lailan from the British city of Portsmouth was jailed for 16 years after prosecutors told a court how two brothers died after buying ecstasy tablets from one of his vendor pages.

In the US, the dark web is playing a major role in the country’s epidemic synthetic opioid crisis, which has led to a sharp rise in the number of overdose deaths there in recent years. The US Department of Justice cited the sale of fentanyl as one of the reasons behind its takedown of dark web marketplaces Hansa and AlphaBay last summer. Hidden drug markets are awash with listings for fentanyl, which is being produced on an industrial scale at illicit drugs factories in China before being shipped to key markets such as the US, Europe and Australia. Speaking at the White House last October, US President Donald Trump promised a crackdown on the widespread availability of synthetic opioids across the country, an ambition that will be incredibly difficult to realise given the ubiquitous supply of substances such as fentanyl on dark web marketplaces.

As has been the case with many other industries, the internet has changed the drugs trade beyond all recognition, and will continue to do so as dealers now move away from the dark web to encrypted massaging apps in the wake of a number of hidden marketplace busts. While it may be the case that the online drugs trade results in buyers not having to deal with criminals on street corners, it is clear that it brings with it a new set of problems, which are not limited to the rising potency of traditional narcotics and the widespread availability of deadly new substances such as fentanyl. As well as making it all the more difficult for law enforcement authorities to catch dealers, the online sale of drugs is costing lives, and will likely continue to do so in greater number.

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Cyber crime cost worldwide economy $2.9 million every minute last year

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cyber crime cost worldwide economy $2.9 million

Online criminals cost the global economy $2.9 million every minute last year, according to a report from cyber security firm RiskIQ.

This added up to $1.5 trillion over the 12-month period.

Research conducted by the firm also reveals that security breaches cost major companies $25 per minute last year, and that hacks on cryptocurrency exchanges cost $1,930 every 60 seconds over the same period.

Elsewhere, the firm’s study showed that $17,700 was lost to phishing attacks every minute last year, while ransomware events will cost a projected $22,184 each 60 seconds in 2019.

According to RiskIQ, hackers employed a range of tactics last year, including malvertising, phishing and supply chain attacks that target e-commerce, such as the Magecart hacks that have increased by 20% over the past 12 months.

Commenting on his company’s findings, Lou Manousos, CEO of RiskIQ, said: “As the scale of the internet continues to proliferate, so does the threat landscape.

“By compiling the vast numbers associated with cybercrime in the past year, we made the research more accessible by framing it in the context of an ‘internet minute’.

“We are entering our third year defining the sheer scale of attacks that take place across the internet using the latest third-party research and our own global threat intelligence so that businesses can better understand what they’re up against on the open web.”

Manousos added that a wider understanding of the cyber threat landscape is required to tackle the problem, and that there will be more attacks using an ever-expanding range of technologies and strategies if the necessary security controls are not implemented.

“With the recent explosion of web and browser-based threats, organizations should look to what can happen in a matter of minutes and evaluate their current security strategy,” he said.

“Businesses must realise that they are vulnerable beyond the firewall, all the way across the open internet.”

Separately, a gang of six online romance fraudsters based in the UK have been convicted of conning two women out of £240,000 ($296,803).

Setting up fake profiles on internet dating sites, the gang members used the false identities of Kevin Churchill and Kevin Thompson, posing as wealthy businessmen to gradually convince the two women they were in relationships.

The gang members first demanded money on the pretence that they needed funds to pay vet’s bills for a sick dog, preying on their victims’ love for animals, and then gradually asked for larger sums.

The gang will be sentenced at Guildford Crown Court on 2 August.

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25 million Android devices infected with malware that swaps legitimate apps for bogus ad-filled versions

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25 million Android devices infected with malware

Security researchers have discovered a new form of malware designed to infect Android devices and replace legitimate apps with malicious versions that show fraudulent ads.

Analysts at Check Point Research, who have named the malware Agent Smith after a fictional character from the Matrix film franchise, believe the malicious software has already infected as many as 25 million devices across the US and India.

The malware, which disguises itself as a Google-related application, is said to exploit known Android vulnerabilities to automatically replace installed apps with malicious versions that show device users ads selected by hackers who profit financially from their views.

Check Point notes that while the software is currently only being used by cyber criminals to profit from ad views, it could be adapted to steal personal and banking information, or turn Android handsets into remote listening devices.

The online security firm has withheld the identity of the malicious actor behind the malware after passing information to Google and law enforcement agencies.

In a statement, Jonathan Shimonovich, Head of Mobile Threat Detection Research at Check Point Software Technologies, said: “The malware attacks user-installed applications silently, making it challenging for common Android users to combat such threats on their own.

“Combining advanced threat prevention and threat intelligence while adopting a ‘hygiene first’ approach to safeguard digital assets is the best protection against invasive mobile malware attacks like ‘Agent Smith’.

“In addition, users should only be downloading apps from trusted app stores to mitigate the risk of infection as third party app stores often lack the security measures required to block adware loaded apps.”

Earlier this month, CSIS Security Group published information about a separate piece of malware that it claims has infected more than 10 million Android devices made by South Korea’s Samsung.

The bogus Updates for Samsung app, which had been downloaded by millions of users before being pulled from the Google Play store, purported to manage firmware updates that improve and secure the running of Samsung devices.

In reality, the app simply directed users to an ad-packed website that charged for the download of firmware updates.

In a statement, Google said: “Providing a safe and secure experience is a top priority and our Google Play developer policies strictly prohibit apps that are deceptive, malicious, or intended to abuse or misuse any network, device, or personal data. When violations are found, we take action.”

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Hacked medical information now among most valuable data offered on dark web, new study reveals

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hacked medical information

Hackers are increasingly attempting to attack healthcare organisations in a bid to steal valuable data they hold on their IT systems, according to a new report from online security company Carbon Black.

A survey conducted by the firm revealed that 83% of healthcare organisations have witnessed an increase in cyber attacks over the course of the past year, and that two thirds (66%) said hacking attempts had become more sophisticated over the last 12 months.

The study found that stolen records from healthcare providers have become one of the most valuable data assets sold on dark web illicit marketplaces, and that such records can change hands for three times as much as general consumer personally identifiable information (PII).

According to the poll, Carbon Black’s healthcare customers saw an average of 8.2 attempted cyber attacks per endpoint each month last year, with 45% stating they had encountered hacking attempts in which the primary motivation was the destruction of data over the same period.

Analysis of stolen medical data offered on dark web marketplaces conducted by Carbon Black revealed that information that would allow criminals to pose as doctors was among the most expensive data listed, with malpractice insurance documents, medical diplomas, board recommendations, medical doctor licenses and DEA licenses on offer for as much as $500.

Meanwhile, forged prescription labels, sales receipts and counterfeit or stolen healthcare cards that could allow criminals to illegally obtain prescription drugs were found to sell for considerably less, and are typically being offered for between $10 and $120 per record.

Hacked health insurance login information is cheaper still, Carbon Black discovered, costing less than $3.25 per record on average.

Describing how cyber criminals are able to monetise the data they steal from healthcare organisations, the report says: “A hacker compromises the corporate network of a healthcare provider to find administrative paperwork that would support a forged doctor’s identity.

“The hacker then sells to a buyer or intermediary (who then sells to the buyer) for a high enough price to ensure a return on investment, but low enough to ensure multiple people buy the item.

“The buyer poses as the stolen doctor’s identity and submits claims to Medicare or other medical insurance providers for high-end surgeries.”

The report was published as US clinical laboratory Quest Diagnostics admitted that a third-party billing company may have exposed personal and medical records belonging to 11.9 million of its patients.

Quest said earlier this week that the American Medical Collection Agency (AMCA) had informed it that an unauthorised user had accessed its systems, which contained data on patients who had used Quest’s services.

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