In Darknet, data is being sold at cut-throat prices. And there are also plenty of Swiss documents, such as a scan of a passport for 10 francs.

Online black markets on the Darknet not only contains illegal substances, weapons and counterfeit goods – but also Swiss passport data and forged documents. Marc Ruef, security researcher at the Zurich company Scip AG has discovered this together with his team in the course of intensive research in the Darknet.

Anyone who, with the intention of damaging someone’s property or other rights or giving himself or someone else an unlawful advantage, forging or falsifying a document, using someone else’s genuine signature or hand signal to produce a fake document, will be punished with a custodial sentence of up to five years or a fine.

Over 99 percent of the data on the Internet cannot be found via search engines. They’re talking about the deep web. This is also where the Dark Net is hidden. These are networks that deliberately want to be invisible. To access it you need special software like the TOR-Browser. The data traffic runs encrypted and travels randomly over countless private computers. This makes it difficult for supervisors to collect information about the communication.

“There is definitely a market for fake ID documents,” Ruef says. Currently, fake Swiss documents are being offered for 210 to 300 US dollars. There is also a forged Swiss settlement permit.

Scans to launder money

The Darknet also contains scans and copies of passports – including Swiss ones. “Prices here range between $5 and $100,” Ruef says. Fraudsters use such documents, for example, to fake someone‚Äôs identity with a legitimate payment service and thus launder money.

All kinds of counterfeit documents are traded on darknet markets: A US passport costs around 160 dollars. “However, counterfeit documents are all the more difficult to produce because more security features have been introduced recently,” says Ruef. He and his team are dealing with exactly such situations.

Forging biometric features

Ruef classifies Swiss documents as “not so easy to reproduce”. Counterfeiters would generally focus primarily on optical features.

“It is, however, a matter of time before their technological level will also be upped,” Ruef said. Overall, however, the offer of Swiss documents in Darknet is “manageable”.

It is particularly important and difficult for the security experts not to commit or support any criminal acts themselves, Ruef says. That is why Scip’s activities in Darknet are always precisely planned and agreed in a team. “As soon as there is a danger for our company or our analysts, we refrain from further access,” says the expert.

Two arrests in Switzerland

The offers and especially the Darknet dealers are also in the sights of the Fedpol: “The infiltration of undercover investigators is currently one of the most promising investigative approaches,” says Alexander Rechsteiner, spokesman for the Federal Office of Police. However, the undercover investigations would be lengthy and difficult. “The perpetrators are aware of the difficulties faced by the law enforcement authorities and take targeted measures to identify undercover investigators.

The competence of the authorities is assessed on a case-by-case basis. “Depending on what is on offer, both cantonal and federal competence can be considered,” says Rechsteiner. The Fedpol does not want to comment on individual cases. In Switzerland there have been two arrests so far in connection with the Darknet and anonymised services.