CHICAGO - Most of the internet exists in a cyber place that people never see and have no idea how to access.
But for those who can maneuver onto the "Dark Web," there exists a black market of illegal goods - from fake driver's licenses and guns to child pornography, heroin and opioid painkillers.
Even as federal law enforcement officials on Monday announced a new offensive in the war on Dark Web drug sales, there is a new product for sale on the web's digital underbelly: infant's personal data being sold to identity thieves, who then use the information and records to file false tax returns, take out loans and obtain credit cards.
The Dark Web is a large and mostly anonymous section of the internet that is not reachable by normal search engines such as Google...and requires specific software, configurations or authorization to access.
According to the Dark Web intelligence firm Terbium Labs, buyers can purchase an infant's name, Social Security number, date of birth and mother's maiden name. The stolen data allows criminals to have instant clean credit history.
"With a maximum child tax credit of $1,000 per child, that is a potentially significant return on investment, assuming the buyer successfully files and claims the return," Terbium Labs wrote in a blog post. "An enterprising buyer can find the remaining details through open-source data sets or by harvesting the parents' other online presences like social media accounts."
Because the personal information is for an infant, investigators say it may be years before anyone discovers that it has been stolen.
FEDS TARGETING DRUG SALES ON DARK WEB
On Monday, U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the U.S. Justice Department would begin a new push to take down drug traffickers who roam the Dark Web. Sessions unveiled the fed's new "J-CODE" project: Joint Criminal Opioid Darknet Enforcement Team.
In Pittsburgh, Sessions announced the plan to attack "the deadliest drug crisis in our history," citing thousands of overdose deaths and connections to violent crime.
"By bringing together the DEA, our Safe Streets Task Forces, our drug trafficking task forces, Health Care Fraud Special Agents, and other assets, and the FBI will more than double its investment in the fight against online drug trafficking, using their computer skills and expertise, dedicating dozens, dozens more Special Agents, Intelligence Analysts, and professional staff to focus on this one issue," Sessions said. "The J-CODE team will coordinate across the FBI's offices around the world to target and disrupt the sale of synthetic opioids and other drugs on the DarkNet."
The attorney general predicted that this new initiative will result in "more arrests of those who are selling these deadly substances online as well as shutdown the marketplaces that these drug dealers use-and ultimately help us reduce addiction, overdoses and death in this community and across the country."