Home / Cyber / Dark Web which hides illicit activities like buying and selling drugs, guns, and hacked data is now under Global Crackdown

Dark Web which hides illicit activities like buying and selling drugs, guns, and hacked data is now under Global Crackdown

The internet is actually made up of three different layers: the surface web, the deep web and the dark web. The top layer, the surface web, are web pages that show up using search engines such as Google. The deep web are web pages which search engines can’t access and are therefore hidden, accessed via passwords and authorisation. For example, work intranets, password-protected areas of online banking and draft blog posts are all stored on the deep web.


Dark/deep web Deep and Dark (D2Web) web are non-indexed sites on the open Internet which are accessed using anonymization protocols (most notably the TOR protocol). Originally created by the US government to allow spies to exchange information completely anonymously, dark web has now attracted criminals seeking to avoid detection by law enforcement agencies. According to app developer and cofounder of TBG Labs Harsha Halvi, the deep web makes up as much as about 65- 75% of the world wide web. The dark web forms a small part of the deep web


The dark web is the World Wide Web content that exists on darknets, overlay networks that use the Internet but require specific software like the Tor browser, configurations, or authorization to access because sites on the dark web exist on an encrypted network. These web sites host discussion forums and marketplaces, which are often used for malicious or illicit purposes, for example, to buy and sell drugs, guns, hacked data or exploits. The darknet is also used for illegal activity such as illegal trade, forums, and media exchange for pedophiles and terrorists.


A December 2014 study by Gareth Owen from the University of Portsmouth found that the most commonly hosted type of content on Tor was child pornography, followed by black markets, while the individual sites with the highest traffic were dedicated to botnet operations (see attached metric). Many whistleblowing sites maintain a presence as well as political discussion forums. Sites associated with Bitcoin, fraud related services and mail order services are some of the most prolific.


OVER 1 lakh scanned copies of Indians’ national IDs, including Aadhaar, PAN card and passport, have been put on dark web for sale, Cyber Intelligence firm Cyble said in June 2020. “We came across a non-reputed actor who is currently selling over 1 lakh Indian National IDs on the dark net. With such a low reputation, ideally, we would have skipped this; however, the samples shared by the actor intrigued our interest — and also the volume. The actor is alleged to have access to over 1 lakh IDs from different places in India,” Cyble said. The personal data leaked by cyber criminals leads to various nefarious activities such as identity thefts, scams, and corporate espionage.

Many criminals use the personal details in the IDs to win trust of the people over a phone call for fraudulent activities. The Cyble researchers acquired around 1,000 IDs from the seller and confirmed that the scanned IDs belong to Indians. “Preliminary analysis suggests that the data originated from a third party, and no indication or artefact is indicating that it came from a Government system. At this point, Cyble researchers are still investigating this further — we are hoping to share an update soon,” Cyble said.




Darknet Challenge

“Just like the forest, the dark web hides things well – it hides actions and it hides identities. The dark web also prevents people from knowing who you are, what you are doing and where you are doing it.” Darknet websites are accessible only through networks such as Tor (“The Onion Routing” project) and I2P (“Invisible Internet Project”).  Tor browser and Tor-accessible sites are widely used among the darknet users and can be identified by the domain “.onion”. While Tor focuses on providing anonymous access to the Internet, I2P specializes on allowing anonymous hosting of websites.


Identities and locations of darknet users stay anonymous and cannot be tracked due to the layered encryption system. The darknet encryption technology routes users’ data through a large number of intermediate servers, which protects the users’ identity and guarantees anonymity. The transmitted information can be decrypted only by a subsequent node in the scheme, which leads to the exit node. The complicated system makes it almost impossible to reproduce the node path and decrypt the information layer by layer. Due to the high level of encryption, websites are not able to track geolocation and IP of their users, and users are not able to get this information about the host. Thus, communication between darknet users is highly encrypted allowing users to talk, blog, and share files confidentially.


“Many tools that can be used to commit cyber frauds are available on the dark web,” said cyber crime police station inspector M Chandrappa. Deputy superintendent at the cyber crime police station of CID MD Sharath said it was difficult to ascertain the frequency of usage of such applications by criminals. Bitcoin transactions are the preferred mode of payment for purchases on the dark web as they cannot be traced. However, Saini said some US-based researchers have written academic papers on how bitcoin exchanges can be tracked.

Global Crackdown

In May 2019,  the FBI announced the seizure of Deep Dot Web, a website that provided links to dark web marketplaces — the latest example of law enforcement cracking down on the shadowy side of the internet.


The FBI’s seizure of Deep Dot Web comes just days after Europol police led an international take down of two dark web marketplaces: the Silkkitie, also known as the Valhalla Marketplace, and the Wall Street Market, the second-largest marketplace on the dark web.


UK has  announced a £9million fund to ensure every police force in the UK has a dedicated cyber crime unit to bust its “sickening shopping list of services and products”.


The extra cash will tackle offenders who are exploiting the anonymity of the dark web – where users use freely available software to avoid being tracked – to trade in guns, drugs and child abuse images.


Yes – although using the dark web makes it easier to evade detection but governments around the world are working to index, sort and catalogue the dark web as well as monitor it as much as they can. The UK government have a dedicated cybercrime unit to tackle the dark web with a focus on taking down serious crime rings and child porn.


Some consider dark web has positive aspect

However, for others the dark web has positive uses. For example, it can be used to avoid a national firewall, such as China, where users are normally blocked from accessing hidden sites. It can also be used as a tool for whistleblowing – infamous website WikiLeaks is hosted on the dark web, allowing whistleblowers to anonymously upload classified information to the press. It has been shown that the activity on these websites can signal potential cyber attacks, therefore intelligence agencies mine the dark web discussion forums to predict cyber attacks.


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