News 5 Investigates

Apr 25, 2013 8:34 PM by Eric Ross

News 5 Investigates: The fight to shut down illegal drug web sites

There's a new war on drugs happening across the nation and right here in Colorado.

Illegal narcotics are being bought and sold on the black market, then delivered right to your door step. What's even scarier is that these sites are now targeting teenagers.

They are set up similar to eBay or Amazon, with sellers from all over the world. It takes a few steps to access them which we will not being revealing in our broadcast or online.

"20 years ago, everything was done face to face," DEA Agent Matt Barden said.

In an attempt to avoid law enforcement, both users and dealers have turned to web sites like ‘Silk Road,' the newest site now gaining the attention of the DEA.

"Whether a drug transaction or negotiation takes place in person or over the internet, it's still a violation of federal law," Barden said.

Black tar heroin, cocaine, marijuana and various prescription medications like Oxycodone and Xanax are all just a click away. The sites also appeal to teens wanting to experiment in the world of synthetic drugs.

Most would think it would be a no-brainer to shut sites like this down, but it's not that easy.

The Colorado Springs Police Department tells News 5 there are "jurisdictional issues" because "no one knows where the web site is located."

‘Silk Road' uses an anonymous web browser called Tor, which masks a computers identity or IP address along with it's location.

"About half a million people use Tor," Dr. Chuan Yue, a UCCS computer science professor said.

Dr. Yue says the technology has been around for over two decades. The anonymous browser was mainly used by law enforcement agencies and other government entities to protect private information being shared between users.

"Your communication will be encrypted multiple times," Dr. Yue said. "During the transmission, those routers in the middle cannot figure out who are the two communication partners."

To break it down in simple terms, all communication between the "buyer" and "seller" are encrypted so the "transaction" is virtually untraceable.

Because of that encryption process, detectives and cyber crime investigators have a hard time intercepting that communication.

Buyers and sellers also cover their tracks using screen names instead of their real names.

They also use "bit coins" similar to a Paypal account to complete the deal. The drugs are then shipped through the mail.

"If they use the United States Postal Service, that's another violation of federal law," Barden said.

We contacted Ron Perry with the United States Postal Service for comment on their screening measures.

He informed News 5 over the phone that they have policies in place, but could not tell us if they have been able to intercept any recent drug transactions.

Meanwhile, the DEA says despite all the steps users and dealers have taken to stay ahead of the law, they will likely launch an investigation using their own internal resources to bust this booming market.

"We have very skilled and educated investigators and ultimately, there's not any place you can hide," Barden said. "We are going to use every bit of technology, every bit of our resources and relationships with other law enforcement agencies around the country to track these people down."

To learn more about the DEA, visit

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Disclaimer: KOAA-TV, nor its affiliates encourage children, teens or adults to attempt to purchase or consume illegal narcotics. As a media organization, our goal is to provide a warning to the public about a growing problem now spreading on the Internet. While using such sites may be "difficult" for law enforcement to trace, we want to warn you that no Internet transaction is 100-percent untraceable. Whether purchased on the streets or online, we remind you that possessing illegal narcotics carries penalties including but not limited to a fine and jail time. On a final note, any viewer who posts information on how to access or log onto the site mentioned in our story will be removed. We do not authorize viewers to post links or any other content which may promote drug activity in any way.



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