Dark Web: The great, The Bad And The Ugly

Though the dark web is commonly associated with 'the dangerous', it also contains 'the great' - and ‘the ugly’. What makes the dark web notably resilient?

Each day, over 3.5 billion queries are entered into Google’s search engine. Add billions of posts on social media per day, and it turns into clear that probably the most dominant way we access online content is thru search engines like google and yahoo and shared links. The 'floor net' that we use each day, nonetheless, is estimated to be lower than a thousandth of all the internet! The rest is within the 'deep web': invisible content material not listed by engines like google. It accommodates databases, password-protected web sites, intranets, tutorial journals, and archives, a few of it being accessible through particular applications or with credentials.

One tiny portion of the deep web belongs to the 'dark web' - a space without centralised structure and with non-listed and really unstable content that is accessible only with particular browsers. Regardless that the dark web is commonly associated with 'the dangerous', it additionally comprises 'the good' - and the 'ugly'! On its good aspect, the dark web enables the communication of human rights activists and whistle-blowers all over the world (it has facilitated freedom of expression in Iran and Egypt, and it has been used by Wikileaks and Edward Snowden, as well as by journalists and even officials). But the dark web additionally hosts markets of illegal items (reminiscent of counterfeit products, medication, and IDs) and financial crime companies (similar to money laundering and financial institution frauds). There may be an ugly facet to it as properly: markets providing paedophilia content, hitman providers, standard and chemical weapons buy, and unlawful medical research.

A particularly flourishing supply is of non-public data and on-line credentials (passwords, emails, IDs) and cyber-weapons (exploits, malware kits, and botnets). Each day, the headlines characteristic such updates, just like the latest ones about 32 million Twitter passwords or the new Windows zero-day flaws - all for sale. The abundance of hacked information and exploits enables the emergence of cheaper and less complicated to use, but extra subtle malware (resembling trojans or ransomware) and social engineering methods (akin to phishing and spear-phishing), and even cyber-attack providers (distributed denial-of-service or DDoS assaults, hacking and defacement, spam and malware distribution) - with buyer support. As an example, one can rent a smaller botnet for about €100, or a DDoS attack for lower than €50 per day; no particular abilities are required besides for how to seek out such provides on-line. Available, inexpensive, ready-made and simple-to-use presents, combined with the low risk of prosecution resulting from anonymity, in flip invite for greater curiosity by varied people and groups to buy instruments and rent companies online.

What makes the dark web, including its unhealthy and its ugly elements, particularly resilient is the anonymising darkish internet tools that allow sturdy encryption and decentralisation. Probably the most notable are the anonymous peer-to-peer open software networks, Tor (The onion routing) and I2P (Invisible Internet Project), developed to protect private privacy and freedoms by encrypting and distributing communications, thus stopping traffic analysis and surveillance. While dark web links provide safety and even save the lives of activists and journalists working in politically unstable parts of the world, in addition they provide the flexibility to cover criminal actions. As well as, crypto-currencies like BitCoin (a decentralised peer-to-peer electronic system of fee), which have great potential for global markets, at the same time enable criminals to transfer money whereas avoiding the centralised banking system. Each step in a daily crime market between a vendor and a buyer (communications and transactions, trust, fee and cash stream, and logistics) could be anonymised, which makes it a hard task for legislation enforcement businesses (LEA) to combat dark markets.

The relatively low threat of conducting criminal operations on-line encourages the emergence of recent dark market platforms. Nevertheless, investigation units, particularly the FBI, are constructing their expertise to infiltrate cybercriminal networks, and to make use of the Tor community, in an effort to mitigate the anonymization and determine the bodily places of dark market servers and the important thing people operating them. Lately, the take-down of main unlawful drug markets resembling Silk Road 1 and Silk Road 2, Evolution, and Agora - and the arrest of a few of their key operators - have shown that the operational cooperation of law enforcement companies (comparable to in case of the operation Shrouded Horizon) can deliver outcomes, but it nonetheless faces many obstacles throughout jurisdictions. A harmonisation of national legal environments, resembling that based on the Budapest Convention of the Council of Europe, and investment in capacities and human resources of LEA, can enhance the effectivity of taking down the darkish markets and assist preserve 'the great' of the dark web.