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Episode 05: What Law Enforcement Can Do to Stop Fraud on the Dark Web with Keven Hendricks, Founder of Ubivis Project

February 21, 2022

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The dark web is probably the nastiest place on the internet. And it’s not an enclosed network only certain people can access. It’s available to anyone with the necessary software to access it, and it’s a slice of heaven for anyone seeking easy money through frauds and scams.

But the dark web has recently become a major marketplace for selling drugs, mainly to minors. While law enforcement does everything it can to stop it, such initiatives aren’t always fruitful. One way to stop the sale of drugs is to report the crime, even though it has been committed online. But victims usually decide not to report it because police departments don’t always take these cases seriously.

In this episode of Dr. Dark Web, our host Chris Roberts welcomes Keven Hendricks, the Founder of Ubivis Project. They dive into the misconceptions around the dark web, the potential danger brought about by the sale of drugs and carding, and the reasons online fraud isn’t always taken seriously by local PDs.

Guest-at-a-Glance

Name: Keven Hendricks

What he does: Keven is the Founder of Ubivis Project.

Company: Ubivis Project

Noteworthy: Keven has been recognized as a subject matter expert on dark web investigations. Since 2014, he’s worked with different alphabet agencies, including the Internet Crime Against Children FBI Task Force (ICAC), to combat cybercrime.

Where to find Keven: Email

Key Insights

⚡ Many people don’t know what the dark web really is.

According to Keven, people don’t realize the danger behind the dark web, which is, basically, the “regular internet”.

“What we know the dark web as, the pop culture aspect of it, it’s wrong. So many people don’t realize that the dark web is the regular internet where you need specific software to access these networks.”

⚡ Online scams are not taken seriously.

Keven believes that local PDs aren’t ready to fight cybercrime yet. However, they are advised to forward the case to federal agencies and let them deal with it instead of letting it go.

“If someone who just turned 20 is explaining that they were scammed out of $50,000 from a non-fungible token scam, I guarantee you that the officer’s probably going to respond, ‘There’s nothing we can do. I don’t understand this. And because I don’t understand this, I don’t know what I can do from my end.’ And that’s wrong logic.”

⚡ People think that cybercrime is victimless.

According to Keven, another misconception around cybercrime is that it’s victimless. Unfortunately, it is not, and the law should be more serious about that.

“PDs should treat it [cybercrime] like it is a real crime. When people think of cybercrime, they think it’s often victimless. And sometimes, unless that victim had the credit card physically stolen from them, they won’t take the report. And that’s not because they don’t want to do their work, but they honestly believe that there’s nothing that can come from doing this report.”

Episode Highlights

Cybercrime Is the Fastest-Growing Crime in the World

“The fastest growing crime in the world, and I would challenge someone to argue with this, is cybercrime. It’s trillions of dollars in loss globally. […] And what have we in the law enforcement community done to actively address this? Do we have this training readily available? Do we have a dedicated cyber officer within our department? Do we have somebody that has the skill set to understand these types of crimes as they come in? And unfortunately, I feel that we’re behind the curve as compared to some other countries that are getting at the forefront of it. But, at the end of the day, while we have those conversations, the problem gets worse.”

Cybercrime Has Increased with COVID-19

“I’m seeing more off-market stuff. I’m seeing more Telegrams, more XMPP chats. I’m seeing more people migrating from darknet markets or unindexed deep websites.
It’s become such a convoluted, saturated market, specifically when we’re talking about carding or PII. […] And they’re not afraid of law enforcement. They’re not afraid to get caught because they know that all of law enforcement is behind the curve. […] And that was probably evident when ransomware-as-a-service took off with COVID. Everyone started working from home. The market could compromise Remote Desktop Protocol. That skyrocketed because everyone’s using RDP now. So, albeit COVID has augmented our lifestyle, we can see its adverse effects on these darknet markets. We see how much has changed and how much is now available. […] I would fancy saying that last year, with the volatility of cryptocurrency alone and how high Bitcoin went, we probably saw the biggest loss ever due to cybercrime.”

How Do Local PDs Deal with Cybercrime Reports?

“We’re not going to expect you [local PDs] to go online. We’re not going to expect you to infiltrate some Russian-speaking forums. We’re not going to expect that from local police departments or the rank and file. But what you can do is take that report and upload it to ic3.gov, or you could find the local agency that oversees the area — your local Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security or FBI office — and forward them that. […] In my opinion, swatting cases are very easy to investigate. A lot of the time, these guys are broadcasting on Discord. They’re doing it either via Skype or texts. And they’re all collectively laughing as the local PDs are responding with lights and sirens to some poor soul’s house because they got mad about a game of roadblocks.”

Dark Web is a Source of Easy Money

“You could be 18 years old, maybe just graduating high school. And if you’re in with the right frauding group, you could be making $5,000, $6,000, or even $10,000 a week just with frauding or carding.  […] You can make a lot of money very quickly. And the perception from the PDs on the local level is, ‘These are complicated cases. How do we work them?’ So, not only do you have this enticement that you’re going to make easy money, but it’s also that you’re probably not going to get caught. […] It’s all out there underneath the noses of the local PD. They just don’t have an understanding of what’s going on, and they don’t feel empowered to actually investigate these cases.”

Final Thoughts

“We, in law enforcement, need to do better. We need to be better at understanding how crimes are being committed, how the dark web works in general, and the different darknets that are out there. My passion is training and teaching. It is to see the success stories that come out from the one law enforcement officer or the rank and file who listens to this podcast and adopts this proactive approach because it’s going to get a lot worse before it gets better. […] Last year, in our country, we saw the highest amount of overdoses that we’ve ever had. These are all illegally sourced narcotics. And a lot of it is coming from the dark web. We need to have an understanding of how much law enforcement can do at the state and the local level versus the federal level. […] You can go to stopdarkwebdrugs.com. It’ll resolve back to the same site where you can report as anonymously as you want. We don’t retain IP addresses. We don’t require digital signatures. All we ask for is a case number, contact information, and the moniker, if you know it. And that’s all we need to get the ball rolling at our end.”