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Most weapons on the dark web come from US, study finds

New research investigates guns, explosives and ammunition available in online black markets.

The Fight Against Gun Smuggling

Semi-automatic weapons for sale in Texas.

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US guns make up as much as 60 percent of the weapons on sale on the dark web, new research has found.

Weapons, drugs and stolen identities are readily available on the dark web, a hidden part of the internet that you can only access through special browsers like Tor. To investigate where guns, ammunition and guides to their use come from, the UK's University of Manchester and think tank Rand Europe scoured 12 dark web marketplaces -- or cryptomarkets -- and found 811 listings relevant to the study, published Wednesday.

Most weapons were from the USA, where gun control is a divisive issue, and most sales were destined for Europe. A gun bought from the dark web was used in a terrorist attack in Munich in 2016.

"The dark web is both an enabler for the trade of illegal weapons already on the black market and a potential source of diversion for weapons legally owned", said Giacomo Persi Paoli, the report's lead author. "The ability for criminals and terrorists, as well as vulnerable or fixated individuals, to make virtually anonymous purchases is perhaps the most dangerous aspect."

On Thursday, US and European law enforcement agencies announced the shutdown of AlphaBay and Hansa, two of the three largest dark web markets. 

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