KEY POINTS

  • Televend is used by darknet buyers and sellers to facilitate drug trade
  • Users must complete a series of "obstacles" before  they can access Televend
  • There is no escrow and the entire platform is based on trust

Darknet customers are now using messaging app Telegram to purchase narcotics and other illegal products through its Televend channel, which uses an automated software to peddle illicit drugs to buyers in exchange for Bitcoin.

Narcotics buyers and sellers on the darknet are used to utilizing messaging platforms like Facebook Messenger to facilitate deals. Now, through Televend, a bot hosted on Telegram, users have a new way to facilitate the trade.

According to the program's learning channel, users must complete a series of "obstacles" before they can use the application. For example, a user wishing to access it must not use a phone number and instead use a SIM hosting service while joining Telegram. They should also select an alternative country other than Russia or other countries that were part of the former Soviet Union, Bitcoin.com reported.

The Telegram client must also be set up using the TOR network. Two-factor authentication is also needed because the number provided using the SIM hosting service will not be available for use afterward. With two-factor authentication, the account will stay with the users.

Televend acts as "an auto-shop bot network" where vendors can sell their illegal wares while customers can check them and pay using Bitcoin. The app can also be used to track orders and payments. Since the vendors control their listings and configure their bots through a .onion Tor-based control panel, there is actually no need for a telegram account. 

Televend has no escrow system, so the entire system is based on trust. Users are encouraged to leave feedback ratings to help users select the most trusted vendors. A Reddit user said there are a lot of scammers on Telegram and advised users to deal only with vendors who are verified, trusted or have good feedback. Apparently, there are also group chats where users identify scammers.

Despite the hurdles in accessing it, the creators of Televend claims to have 200,000 users, but Bitcoin.com said this figure is hard to verify because there are a number of Televend channels on Telegram with different numbers of subscribers. The platform charges a fee for every sale executed and also pays anyone who can refer vendors to its platform.

bitcoin A file photo of a visual representation of the digital Cryptocurrency, Bitcoin on October 23, 2017 in London, England. Photo: Dan Kitwood/Getty Images