The NPS Phenomenon and the Deep Web: Trends Analyses and Internet Snapshots

  •  Ahmed Al-Imam    
  •  Ban A. AbdulMajeed    


BACKGROUND: In relation to the phenomenon of novel psychoactive substances, activities on the surface web represent only the tip of the iceberg. The majority of the electronic commerce (e-commerce) activities exist on the deep web and the darknet. Observational analytic studies are failing to keep pace with these activities; these studies are either obsolete beyond the point in time of the taken internet snapshot or highly-consuming for resources including time, funding, and manpower.

MATERIALS & METHODS: Cross-sectional and retrospective analyses via multiple Internet snapshots were carried out across Google Trends database and the e-markets on the darknet. Google Trends were scanned retrospectively (2012-2016) for keywords specific to the deep web in an aim to estimate and geo-map of the attentiveness (interest) of surface web users in the deep web and its illicit activities.

RESULTS: The attentiveness of surface web users in the deep web was noticed to be incremented during 2013 and 2014; the top ten contributing countries were Norway, Germany, Denmark, Austria, Poland, Sweden, Slovenia, Switzerland, Finland, and Netherlands. Middle Eastern countries contributed minimally including; Syria, Iran, Israel, UAE, Morocco, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. Power scoring of e-markets revealed that the top five markets were; AlphaBay, Agora, Nucleus, Abraxas, and Hansa. The most common categories of NPS on these markets were; cannabis and cannabimimetic (1st), stimulants (2nd), empathogens (3rd), and psychedelics (4th).

CONCLUSION: The e-commerce activities on the deep web and the darknet e-marketplace represent an integral component of the NPS e-phenomenon. Unfortunately, recent attempts to examine and study those unlawful activities are outdated. Hence, to achieve real-time and reliable data, the inclusion of data mining tools and knowledge discovery in databases are critical to ensuring a future victory.

This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.