Growth of “Dark Web” and “cryptocurrency” ramps up law enforcement training to tackle issue


Efforts are underway to curb drug trafficking on what’s known as the Dark Web.  This comes after law enforcement handed down a federal indictment against six people, including an Augusta man for dealing drugs with “cryptocurrency” on the Dark Web.   

We’ve heard of the world wide web where we purchase everything from clothing to household goods.  But another level of online behavior can land you in federal prison selling; illegal goods on the Dark Web.

“I can sit in Augusta, Georgia and go to a Dark Web marketplace and order Fentanyl from a vendor in China, pay them in Cryptocurrency, the transaction is complete,” said Steven Foster, Special Agent in Charge with GBI and Georgia Cyber Crimes Center.  “They now ship that drug along with all the other millions of packages that come into the United States from China everyday.”

This week U.S. Attorney for the Southern District Bobbie Christine indicted 22-year-old Kolbie Watters, of Augusta and five others for dealing drugs with cryptocurrency on the Dark Web.

It’s an area Foster said law enforcement has seen explode with illegal activity in the past two years. 

“You can buy guns and drugs, hit men, people,” Foster told NewsChannel 6.  “There is a large trade of child pornography in the Dark Web.”

Foster works as The Special Agent in Charge for GBI and he’s stationed at the Georgia Cyber Crimes Center downtown with a team working to not just investigate crimes, but also teach law enforcement across the country about what criminals are doing with the virtual curreny that can’t be traced online.  

“For every transaction, it has to come out,” he explained.  “So, how the money is moved, how the product is moved, how the communication takes place.  All of those produce a weak link that we can occasionally find.”

While training helps with investigations in various police agencies, the Georgia Cyber Center works to teach students how the Dark Web works, which is an encrypted browers that initially began with dot onion instead of dot com in the 1990s for something positive. 

We say down with Sarah Rees, Cyber Workforce Academy Director, and she told us, “It was actually developed by the Navy. Believe it or not, it was developed by the Navy and besides from all the criminal activity that goes on, you have journalists, civil rights/human rights activists.”  She added, “For example, if you live in a country that has censored Internet access where you can’t really get information from the outside world and you can’t get human rights violations, you can’t get that inforamtion out, the Dark Web is the only way to do that. You’ll see journalists communicating to sources anonymously.”

Rees also told us filtering through this anonymous communication world will just require some proactive police work. 

She added, “Law enforcement has, does and will have to continue to insert themselves into that technology and system to try to address the criminals.”

This week, Fost said the National White Collar Crimes Center is at the Georgia Cyber Center teaching law enforcement officials from several states in the southeast about the Dark Web. 

Photojournalist: Gary Hipps

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