U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

What You Can’t Buy, Can’t Kill You

NCJ Number
Elizabeth Gardner; Gary Warner
Date Published
22 pages

This project was designed to improve understanding of the illicit fentanyl market and develop strategies to disrupt it.


This research project aims to develop methods to investigate, disrupt, and provide information about the illicit fentanyl market. The results of this project will present multiple strategies for addressing online sales of opioids. The project found multiple legitimate service providers whose products are being used to promote the illegal sale of opioids: search engines which allow and potentially profit from searches for opioids; domain name registrars which register domain names designed to advertise and distribute Schedule II controlled substances; hosting companies which allow or even cater to websites selling Schedule II controlled substances; and US companies who offer "sales support" chat services. Methods for disruption efforts will focus on two branches: Distribution and Small Market Vendors. The objectives of the research are to build cyber intelligence methods to disrupt two branches of the illicit fentanyl market on the Opennet: Distribution and Small Market Venders. The first objective is to develop lab techniques, such as Visual Keyword Cueing, combined with the UAB Computers Forenics Research Laboratory (CFRL) developed tool, SearchCrawler, used identify both bulk and small volume suppliers of nonpharmaceutical fentanyls (NPF). Application of these methods by law enforcement agencies will allow them to identify and disrupt shipment of illicit goods into the US or block access to precursor chemicals used in the manufacturing of synthetic opioids. The second objective is to use the same methods for social network discovery and analysis techniques to identify the social network locations, social cataloging companies or a business-oriented social networking companies where drug conversations are likely to occur and find accounts selling in these sites. The final objective is to develop strategies to identify emerging trends in online sales of opioids on the open web in order to quickly block sellers access to otherwise legitimate internet services.