When most people think of the Dark Net, they think of crime, fraud, illegal online activities and terrorism. But what really is the Dark Net? Why is it appealing to internet-savvy terrorists? How can we counter this new age of terrorism? Perhaps most crucially, is the Dark Net all dark?
Think of the Internet as a huge iceberg. These hidden parts of the Internet are known as the Deep Web. The Deep Web is approximately 400-500 times more massive than the Surface Web. The deepest layers of the Deep Web, a segment known as the Dark Net, contains content that has been intentionally concealed including illegal and anti-social information. The Dark Net can be defined as the portion of the Deep Web that can only be accessed through specialized browsers like the Tor browser.
Terrorists are increasingly exploiting technology in the age of the Internet. The global network has become a powerful tool for terrorist organisations, allowing them to spread propaganda, recruit new members and fund and plan their activities.
As terrorist organisations head deeper into the darker corners of the Internet, law enforcement agencies must use increasingly powerful technology to spot nefarious patterns and disrupt the funding of terrorist acts. DANTE has developed advanced data-mining and analytical systems to help authorities combat this scourge.
On October 26, 2021, European police (Europol) announced that international investigators had arrested 150 people in an anti-crime operation targeting the markets for illegal business online in the Dark Net. European police in The Hague announced that more than 26 million Euros were confiscated during the operation. A total of 234 kilograms of narcotics and 45 firearms were also seized. The operation was carried out in coordination between Europol in European countries and US law enforcement authorities. The operation targeted sellers and buyers on the Dark Net platforms, an online marketplace for illegal goods. 65 suspects were arrested in the United States, 47 in Germany and 24 in Britain. The seized drugs included 152 kilograms of amphetamines, 27 kilograms of opiates and more than 25,000 Ecstasy tablets.
Terrorists require significant funding to carry out attacks and other activities. Indeed, there is reason to believe that if terrorist groups were better funded overall, there might be more frequent, more successful, and larger attacks.
There are several reasons to make the Dark Net illegal:
First, more funds for operations would presumably lead to increased funding for the structures that enable them to carry out terror operations, include recruiting and training attackers and inspiring potential lone wolves. Second, groups facing less monetary pressure (i.e., those that are better funded) also might be more willing to take risks, such as larger or riskier attacks.
Lastly, and perhaps more contentiously, increased funds can be used directly for additional and larger attacks. It might be difficult to directly link increased funds to terrorist attacks, although there are specific documented cases. It is therefore plausible that the relative lack of attacks, and especially the lack of higher-cost large attacks, is partly because of overall funding constraints.
Terrorists’ love affair with Bitcoin:
While ISIS is best known for its outward manipulation of the Surface Web - that is the web that people can access on any given day using search engines such as Google -their shifting movements into both the Deep Web and Dark Web have made their illicit activities difficult to track. The Deep Web (as opposed to the Surface Web) is all the pieces of un-indexed information that will not show up in any of the pages generated by Google. This is the majority of information that is actually on the Internet, but typically inaccessible unless special browsers or web crawling software are used. By contrast, the Dark Web is a small portion of the Deep Web that has been hidden intentionally to maintain anonymity by users.
Illegal activity and the Dark Web:
Just as nefarious activity can occur through the Surface Web, it can also occur on the Deep Web and Dark Web. A range of malicious actors leverage cyberspace, from criminals to terrorists to state-sponsored spies. The web can serve as a forum for conversation, coordination, and action. Specifically, they may rely upon the Dark Web to help carry out their activities with a reduced risk of detection.
Twenty-first century criminals increasingly rely on the Internet and advanced technologies to
further their criminal operations. For instance, criminals can easily leverage the Internet to carry out traditional crimes such as distributing illicit drugs and sex trafficking. In addition, they exploit the digital world to facilitate crimes that are often technology driven, including identity theft, payment card fraud, and intellectual property theft. The FBI considers high-tech crimes to be among the most significant crimes confronting the United States.
Human trafficking and sex trafficking are a large part of the crimes that have extremely increased due to online forums, chat services, and the anonymity of the Deep Web. Human traffickers negotiate and make contracts to recruit victims for human trafficking and sex trafficking.
There are assassin services offered on a number of websites including Mail Online, White Wolves, and C’thuthlu. These websites provide advertisements for criminals stating that they can be hired for $10,000 in the United States and $12,000 in Europe.
The anonymity of Deep Web access has led to a significant increase in drug transactions on the Deep Web which has created digital black market for drugs. Criminals are using the
Deep Web for drug dealing, because there is no need for face-to-face communication for buying/selling drugs.
Weapon for terrorism:
ISIS uses Dark Web as a weapon for terrorism, where they provide live streaming and
recording of mass execution of prisoners. They use the Dark Web as broadcasting
media where they upload small video clips.
The Public Prosecution Office in Koblenz, Germany, announced on January 12, 2021, the dismantling of the "widest" website in the world for the sale of drugs, papers and counterfeit currency on the Dark Web or the Dark Net. The prosecution added that "more than twenty servers in Moldova and Ukraine were also seized." For investigators, the DarkMarket website was the largest marketplace in the world on the Dark Web, with about 500,000 users and more than 2,400 sellers," according to a statement by the German Public Prosecution Office. The prosecution added that "at least 320,000 transactions were made" through the digital currency Bitcoin, with a total value of up to 140 million Euros.
-Expand the focus of threat intelligence: Instead of only harvesting threat information—for example, data from a company victimized by a breach—on the Dark Web, threat-intelligence services need to determine what cyberattack tools are being offered.
-Understand the attack's structure: The cybercrime researchers suggest companies become more proactive in their defence strategy.
-Understanding that attacks are created by combined services reveals new avenues for undermining them. For example, defenders can flood the cyber-attack ecosystem with deceptive services, making the Dark Web less attractive for cybercriminals seeking to purchase services.
- Some law enforcement participants expressed concern about exposing themselves and their departments to retaliation by malicious web users, should they act against Dark Web interests. The report, noting “a need to demystify the Dark Web” for law enforcement, stated, “Given the lack of definitive quantitative data, law enforcement is expected to act without comprehensive information regarding what works and what is needed to address these Dark Web challenges.”
-Raising awareness of the Dark Web among state and local authorities.
-Forging cross-jurisdictional partnerships among agencies.
-Initiating more and better training to equip officers to identify Dark Web evidence and activity.
-Equipping special investigation units with advanced knowledge of Dark Web methods and activities. Because of the clandestine nature of the Dark Web, many state and local law enforcement agencies are generally unaware of its existence and its capacity for causing crime in their jurisdictions.
The main dangers of the Dark Web lie in the large number of criminals who gain access and use it for illegal purposes. Most governments even criminalize access to the Dark Web, as being a world of crime and terrorism. There are malicious programs and links, which by simply using or clicking on them may expose the owner to the risk of transferring them to his device and controlling it.
The Internet has become a major part of our daily lives at work and at home, to search for things we like, favorite articles, or places we have not visited before, as well as using social media. There is surface web, i.e., the legal and exposed Internet, which uses legitimate web pages and popular search engines such as Google and Yahoo. However, there is a second network called the Dark Web, which represents the criminal and terrorist world, and we need to educate ourselves and family how to avoid this Dark Net.