Cyber Crime Trend: The Unlawful Activities of the Dark Web
Portions of the internet invisible from standard search engines, known as the "Dark Web," are providing rapidly increasing user base access to many illegal activities online.
Dark Web websites are publicly visible, yet hide the IP addresses of the servers that run them using anonymity software like Tor or I2P. These software programs encrypt internet traffic in multiple layers and bounce it across randomly selected computers around the world. This lets anyone using one of these programs access a site, but it can be difficult to locate its servers and users.
In this wild frontier of cybercrime, users can engage in activities ranging from narcotics trafficking to money laundering with relative impunity from law enforcement. There has been a recent trend of seizure of dozens of dark web black market domains. This is the outcome of an extensive investigation by Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), and over a dozen foreign law enforcement agencies.
These investigations have uncovered new vulnerabilities in websites once thought impenetrable and undetectable. The discovery of new weaknesses in dark web domains enables law enforcement officials to monitor dark sites undetected, making time to identify key players and map power structures, much like conventional criminal investigations.
As dark websites become increasingly accessible for novice internet users and untraceable digital currencies become more prevalent on the web, law enforcement will have to keep up in a digital arms race. Agencies compete with major tech companies to hire qualified personnel and increase funding to develop new tools to combat this problem.
As more traditional criminal organizations move their illegal activities to the dark web, law enforcement agencies must move more of their traditional investigative methods online as well.