Animal traffic via darknet is increasing in India

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Species in critical situations are affected by these crimes

Specialists in digital forensics and cybersecurity point out that darknet forums are exerting a significant influence on the way in which illicit activities are carried out. While most of the attention is focused on the drug or weapons sale, there are many other illegal activities to consider. Wildlife trafficking, for example, is growing exponentially, becoming a very lucrative business in certain parts of the world, especially in India, a country where darknet seems to play a more important role than ever.

Several reports have recently been published about the decline of certain animal species, especially exotic animals; tigers, elephants and zebras have seen their populations decrease at an alarming rate. There seems to be no way to reverse this trend, mainly because sales in darknet continue to increase.

India seems to play an important role in this illegal industry. According to reports of experts in digital forensics from the International Institute of Cyber Security, wildlife trafficking in this country via darknet has reached new heights, with many illicit businesses taking place at every hour of the day. The anonymity provided by these services, as well as the scarce capacity to intervene of the authorities, makes it very easy to carry out these transactions.

Although the government in India claims to fight this crime on a regular basis, these supposed efforts are not yet reflected in practice. The Indian Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) is in the process of creating a unit designed to address this activity at darknet. When will be ready this new unit is not clear at this time, but it seems to be a first step in the right direction.

Regarding this panorama, WCCB officials mention: “There is evidence that criminals use darknet on a wide scale to smuggle illegal specimens of the wildlife of endangered species, as well as their derivatives, such as elephant ivory, rhino horns and stuff. The use of encrypted messaging applications, such as Telegram, Signal and WhatsApp, makes it difficult for our cybersecurity and digital forensics teams to link this activity with malicious actors in the real world”.

At the moment, the only course of action is to intensify the monitoring efforts of this activity. This new unit will help monitor this animal traffic, although it will be very difficult to take immediate action against traffickers.

A notable trend is how hunters have created their own slang derived from the Indian language to offer these goods in darknet. This language is constantly evolving, making it even more difficult to get an overview of the current species trafficking context. There is a lot of work ahead for the Indian authorities, but it is really worthwhile for the government to invest in the safeguarding of the species in a critical situation.