Earlier this week, German law enforcement authorities announced the arrest of ‘Shiny Flakes,’ a vendor responsible for selling illegal substances on the online drug market Evolution.
The arrest occurred in late February of this year. Both a 20-year-old Leipzig man, who is believed to be responsible for the coordinating the drug operation, and a 51-year-old Bulgarian man, who is suspected of having acted as the operation’s courier from a supplier in Holland, were brought into custody.
Following these initial arrests, the operation executed another 38 other search warrants in locations across Germany, including Berlin and Bavaria. This led to the confiscation at least 700 pounds of illegal substances, including cocaine, ecstasy, LSD, marijuana, hash, amphetamines, and methamphetamines.
Ken Westin, a senior security analyst at Tripwire, believes that the amount of drugs confiscated is significant: “Given the volume of the haul, it is evident that traditional forms of crime are moving online to increase their distribution, just as traditional legitimate businesses have moved online for the same purpose.”
German authorities seized two websites owned by Shiny Flakes, one accessible only via the use of the Tor anonymizing service and another openly available on the public web. However, Shiny Flakes was also a prominent seller on the underground drug market Evolution.
In many respects, Evolution has become the most popular deep web exchange site of illegal substances. Following Operation Onymous, an international sting against “.onion” domains including the popular online drug market Silk Road 2.0, the site tripled its rate of growth in new product listings.
Evolution now has more than 22,000 drug listings, with Shiny Flakes only contributing a small fraction of the site’s total products.
Ultimately, German authorities narrowed in on Shiny Flakes due to the inherent weaknesses of peddling illegal drugs online. Westin explains these vulnerabilities in greater detail: “Unlike purely digital crimes such as the purchase of stolen data like credit cards and personal information, dealing drugs online is a little messier given the fact you are dealing with the delivery of physical goods, where items are shipped from seller to buyer, giving law enforcement more opportunity to track and implant themselves in the supply chain.”
Using two packages of illegal drugs that were not sufficiently stamped and sent to the wrong sender addresses, German police made a number of purchases from Shiny Flakes, which led to the identification of the main suspect in Leipzig.
“This goes to show that even using hidden services and Tor via dark-web to anonymize illegal or other activities, there are still ways of tracking your down, either through high tech methods, or more traditional investigative techniques,” Westin explains.
The two men arrested for the operation of Shiny Flakes have yet to be identified.