Graffiti and hashtags in public places direct people to drug dealer accounts on encrypted messaging apps such as Telegram.
Darknet drug dealers turn to popular apps to sell their products, often using street graffiti to advertise their accounts to customers and automated bots to contact them.
This shift follows the suppression of illegal online markets, as well as the introduction of encryption into applications, which allows users to remain anonymous.
Cyber experts have spotted this growing trend among the criminal underground, noting innovative tactics that gangs use to evade police detection.
An important change in the way these dealers operate is the use of blind spots to distribute the product. This avoids the dangers of a face-to-face meeting as well as the risk of drugs being traced or intercepted through the postal system.
Instead, the goods are hidden in public places such as parks before the location is sent to the buyer after the purchase is made. Semi-anonymous cryptocurrencies like Bitcoin make payments easier.
Dropgangs, as they were dubbed, were first discovered in Ukraine, but have since been observed in Russia, the Balkans, and most of Central and Eastern Europe.
“Telegram has become a favorite tool of criminals, but it is not the first application to be used wickedly. Channels like WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger have also outlived their time in the underworld, so Telegram probably won’t be the last.”
More recently, investigations have uncovered images of child abuse and stolen credit card numbers that are openly trafficked through Telegram, further pointing to the trend of encrypted apps moving from the dark web to crime scenes.