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The world of cryptocurrency and the Dark Web

The world has witnessed a complete transformation in the transaction sector. A few decades back, only barter systems existed throughout the world and now we are even witnessing cashless transactions. The growth has been exponential. While talking about the cashless mode of transaction, it is impossible to not mention cryptocurrency. People are now trusting cryptocurrencies over other available options and are investing their life savings in them. Crypto is said to be the future and everyone is slowly starting to believe in this statement, thanks to some big influencers like Elon Musk.

Let’s run through the basics- 

In layman language, cryptocurrency is a virtual or digital form of money that is backed up by cryptography, which makes it completely impossible to counterfeit. There are a lot of cryptocurrencies in the market currently, the most popular of them being Bitcoin, Ethereum, Matic, Litecoin, and Ripple. Cryptocurrency is not illegalized in many countries throughout the world, including India. However, they are unregulated which means they are not legal tender money either. Cryptocurrencies are basically decentralized networks backed by blockchain technology.

A little background- 

Bitcoin, the first cryptocurrency was introduced to this world in 2009. It was founded by a person called Satoshi Nakamoto. The bitcoin was not this famous in its initial phases as it is now, and its value was as low as 2.85 rupees in 2010. Just eleven years later, and currently it is worth twenty-three lacs, that too after witnessing a sudden dip in the price in the past few weeks.

But how did Bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies become so popular?

Bitcoin was valueless when it was introduced in 2009. It was followed by some other alternatives in 2010, like Litecoin. However, the value of these cryptocurrencies was not on a rise till 2016. In 2017, the world witnessed a change with respect to the value of cryptocurrencies. Many developers, miners, tech enthusiasts, and other groups started taking interest in cryptocurrencies and therefore their value started rising. As the value was rising, people saw it as a source of investment. They started investing their savings in these digital currencies and to be honest, they made the right investment. Currently, as its value keeps on changing constantly, it has also provided a scope for speculation to the people.

Crypto seems all good, but there is one issue that currently is affecting the future of cryptocurrencies in our country, and it is the use of cryptocurrencies for illegal purposes. The place where much of the illegal stuff is done is the dark web.

What is the dark web? 

Ross William Ulbricht was the founder of the first dark web known as the silk road. He dreamt of making it a brand that people can trust. It was found in 2000. Just thirteen years later, it was shut down by the FBI. Ulbricht, the founder faced double life imprisonment plus 40 years without parole in the united states. The reason behind the ban of the dark web by the FBI was that it became a hub of illegal activities, from the sale of drugs to the sale of humans. It was immediately banned after enough evidence was collected. However, during these thirteen years, it became viral throughout the world, including India. Currently, India is one of the biggest markets for dark web users. According to a survey done in 2019, India alone accounts for 26% of global dark web users, which accounts for the highest single country usage worldwide.

But how is crypto related to the dark web? 

Cryptocurrency has become the viral means of transaction in the dark web for the people buying and selling drugs throughout the country. There are a lot of people who are buying drugs through these dark webs using crypto and therefore the threat of the spreading usage of drugs like LSD is on the rise. Indian Intelligence agencies like the Research and Analysis Wing( RAW) and Narcotic Control Bureau(NCB) as well as the Indian police are trying their best to curb the wings of these dark web networks in the country.

The recent case is of Makarand P Adivirkar, who was arrested by the NCBNCB when they busted a dark web network. This Mumbai-based crypto king was providing bitcoins to people to facilitate the purchase of narcotic drugs on the dark web. The NCB was looking for Adivirkar from the last year when 20 LSD blots were seized from Kharodi village in Malad. These drugs were purchased from Europe by a Mumbai based drug peddler through the dark web where he used bitcoins for payment.

Adivirkar had a large network and was in high demand as people approached him to buy illegal drugs like LSD. He bought these drugs on the dark web using crypto and sold them to his customers at a higher price, therefore earning a commission. The wallets as well as the cryptocurrencies used by him were not disclosed by the NCB but it was told that he used many cryptos, including Bitcoin.

WazirX is one of India’s biggest cryptocurrency wallets with millions of people buying and selling their currency on it. When the Adivirkar case was in the investigation, WazirX was asked to check if he had a wallet and to report his trading activity on WazirX and they reported that the accused did not have an account on WazirX. However, this is not the only case where the police caught dark web transactions. Bengaluru police arrested a group of 8 people in 2020 as they were involved in dealings of drugs on the dark web. You’d be surprised to know that the police confiscated bitcoins worth rupees 9 crores from the gang. Bengaluru police reported 29 similar cases during the last year which involved drugs, dark webs, and crypto.

Other than drugs, cryptocurrency on the dark web is used for several other purposes, as reported by the RAW. One of these is the use of cryptocurrency on the dark web for terror financing. It is on the rise and imposes a great threat to the nation. Several people have been arrested by RAW and the police for the same.

Cryptocurrency is currently on the rise in the country. But with the rise of crypto, the use of it on the dark web for illegal purposes is also on the rise. This imposes a great threat to the future of crypto in the country. India is also working towards regulating cryptocurrencies which are expected to stop their use on the dark web. However, cryptocurrency is the new future and is expected to last for a long time.

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Simerleen Kaur

Talk to me about economics, trade, and all things India.

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