Nowhere left to hide for “Dark Web” criminals?
Breakthrough in techniques results in raid on over 400 illegal websites
Last week, news was released that a joint operation between 16 European countries and the United States had resulted in over 400 “dark web” websites being shut down, with 17 associated arrests.
The sites, including the notorious Silk Road 2.0, were believed to be selling illegal items, including drugs and weapons on the anonymous Tor network.
We wrote about the deep web and dark web earlier this year. That post explained that the deep web is internet content not indexed by search engines. Most of the time this is for perfectly legitimate reasons (e.g. protected data such as our bank statements, company intranets or membership only areas of websites).
But there is a sub-set of the deep web known as the dark web, which runs on the principle of total anonymity and privacy. This is where criminals have traditionally been able to hide their illegal activity.
That could be about to change. Global co-operation amongst law enforcement agencies has enabled the development of new techniques to track the origins of illegal networks and the people behind them. This unprecedented level of collaboration has led to last week's successful raid on dark web sites.
The head of Europol’s European cybercrime centre, Troels Oerting, said, “Today we have demonstrated that, together, we are able to efficiently remove vital criminal infrastructures that are supporting serious organised crime”.
The technological breakthrough could mean that cyber-criminals are no longer beyond the reach of the law. Their days are numbered, though it’s still early days and much work remains to be done to track illegal activity and prevent new sites springing up in their place.
The dark web does not consist entirely of criminal activity. The Tor browser was originally created by a US intelligence agency to help its operations and enable secret communication with people living under repressive regimes. It is still used for this purpose by the military, law enforcement agencies and journalists.