‘India lost $18.5 b due to digital blackmarkets’

Priyanka Pani Mumbai | Updated on March 05, 2019

Director of think-tank says terror groups are acting as force multipliers

Even as the India economy looks set for a leap with the government’s ‘Digital India’ vision, losses due to the digital black or ‘darknet’ markets is only likely to grow, a foreign policy think-tank says.

Digital black markets operate via darknets and are involved in illegal sale of drugs, cyber-arms, weapons, counterfeit currency, stolen credit card details, forged documents, unlicensed pharmaceuticals, steroids and other illicit goods including child pornography.

According to a report by Gateway House, India suffered an economic loss of $18.5 billion in 2017 due to business on the digital black markets, a four-fold increase from $4.2 billion in 2014.

While the think-tank is currently collating the statistics for 2018, the biggest question of the hour is how to clamp down on such darknet markets.

‘Threat to national security’

Sameer Patil, Fellow, National Security Studies and Director, Centre for International Security, Gateway House, told BusinessLine that the darknet marketplaces have emerged from the shadows to become the mainstay of online illicit activity in India and around the world, and are the biggest threat to any growing economy.

These marketplaces, with an average life span of one to one-and-a-half-years, are offering Indian opium and other contraband to customers in India and abroad.

“These marketplaces threaten our national security as their offerings of contraband, malicious software and illegal services have lured organized criminal networks, terrorist groups and other non-state actors as a force multiplier for illicit activities,” Patil said, adding that India still lacks a comprehensive understanding of digital black market activity and necessary technological and forensic skills to deal with it.

Enhance cyber cooperation

The think-tank, in a paper on digital black markets, has suggested that India establish deeper cybersecurity cooperation and partner with like-minded countries such as Canada, a global leader in artificial intelligence and cyber forensics. Both India and Canada can work together to discredit these marketplaces through Sybil attacks, wherein a reputation system is subverted by forging identities in peer-to-peer networks.

Besides, both the countries can shape new international agreements dealing with specific dimensions of online black-market activity and amend existing ones such as the Arms Trade Treaty.

Gateway House and Canada’s Centre for International Governance Innovation — through a joint initiative called ‘Canada-India Track 1.5 Dialogue on Innovation, Growth and Prosperity’ — have already been working on specific areas for the last years to counter the menace of darknet markets.

Published on March 05, 2019

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