Osho ventures into this technologically and legally complex issue with ease and explains the phenomenon and its features.
We’ve all been there. We’ve all had anxious afraid adults who warned us about the scary, dark, mysterious, corrupt internet when we started using it. This is what they warned us about.
As the name suggests, Dark Web can obviously be construed as a place which has some if not all, some Sinister Activities going on. The Onion Router or commonly known as Tor is the software used to enable this network and uses network overlay to maintain a user’s anonymity.
To first understand Dark Web, one would need to know about the Deep Web, which has all the non-indexed sites on the Internet, which would mean that the website is not available on the mainstream search engines like Google and Bing. One would need to have the exact specific link of the webpage to visit since they are not readily available on these search engines. Dark Web forms, perhaps what would be the most secretive part of the Deep Web, wherein the webpages are not even available by specific links, which means that they require specialized software systems to start and are inaccessible by regular browsers like Google Chrome.
Why do the DarkWeb users prefer it over the Surface Web:
The kind of anonymisation which is offered by the DarkWeb appears to be one of the prominent reasons why it lures Terrorist Organizations and Contract Killers to this place. Dark Web is an already established network for a majority of illicit activities, which makes it inseparable from the non-virtual aspect of these crimes. There is a vast range of Crimes that are offered as services over the Dark Web, which may range from selling a hacked account of Netflix to purchasing Fake Passports of the Commonwealth of Australia. Recently, the DarkWeb received attention for having items like COVID-19 Test kits, Antiviral Drugs, and PPE Kits for sale at a time when these very items are in scarcity for majority of the Countries around the World. One of the Vendors who posted an advertisement for Hydrochloroquine was ready to trade 9,000 pills for 1,194 USD or around 90,000 INR. As contrary to popular belief, Dark Web or even the sellers at Dark Web do not need to be extremely specialized to access it, instead, they could be teenage Children who happen to have mediocre command in using Internet Software. When you are dealing in a market full of illicit ventures, you sure need to stay “Hidden” in a network untraceable and what would make a better choice than a decentralized network that uses multiple servers as routers for communication and is very intricately encrypted.
What happens in Dark Web:
An important reason why the Dark Web is used, or rather owns up to its infamous reputation is because of the fact that it has marketplaces like e-Bay for Contract Killers to hire or entire threads dedicated for selling fraudulent Passports. One of the biggest controversies of the Darknet to date has been the Silk Road which is believed to be the biggest marketplaces over the network and largely dealt in illegal drug trafficking. The interesting part about the Silk Road is that after it was taken down by the FBI somehow, it restarted again, this time under the name of “Silk Road 2.0” which was later shut too. The founder of the site was later caught and sentenced to life imprisonment. When a network can have such deplorable ventures running, it comes without much surprise that COVID-19 related equipment would be made for sale too.
Apart from illicit marketplaces, Dark Web is also known to be used for Extreme Political Propaganda by Radical Groups like Neo-Nazism and Radical Terrorism by organizations like ISIS.
Some allege that the place has abundant Child Pornography, Torture Rooms, and Forums for Pedophilia but such allegations remain largely speculative but it would not be surprising if such allegations stood true because similar content was once openly available on a Surface Web Site called 8Chan before it was taken down. Since the Dark Web is not illegal or rather, has no legal framework either allowing or disallowing its usage, accessing it does not cause much hesitation in the minds of the user. One might as well use the place for a mere chat with another, or to access some Questionable but legal content.
On a constructive note, Dark Net is also used by several Journalists and Whistle-blowers to leak sensitive Government data and reveal the hidden ongoing Shenanigans. Media Houses like the Guardian and New Yorker have made available their own drop sites for individuals to submit sensitive information or tips anonymously. In a similar way, the Law Enforcement and Intelligence Agencies of Nations all around the World are also said to have maintained anonymous tip lines and conduct surveillance and observe the activities that happen around the Web. Such Agencies may also use the Web for communication purposes so as to be secure of any Cyber Attacks.
Is the Dark Web entirely secure:
Even though it is highly encrypted, there have been instances by Government Intelligence Agencies, Security Experts and other Researchers have made relentless efforts to deanonymize the guaranteed anonymity offered over the Network.
In one of the Notable Incidents where efforts were made to stop the despicable activities that occurred over the Dark Web was in 2013 when Anonymous – a Hacktivist Group – took down a website called “Freedom Hosting” which was a directory of more than 40 Websites containing Child Pornography. The same Hacktivist group took down “Freedom House II” in 2017, which was a second attempt to start the Website with similar content and dumped the Website Data which was essentially helpful in identifying the users of the website. In 2015, another case involving Child Pornography, the United States of America’s Intelligence Agency; the Federal Bureau of Investigation observed a website under the name of “Playpen” which had a membership of more than 2,15,000 Individuals. They received an authorized investigation Warrant to officially conduct an investigation into the ring and were later successful in identifying and tracking more than 1,300 IP addresses from where the Website was accessed. Eventually, criminal charges were registered against 185 of those Individuals by the end of 2015.
Combating crime over Dark Web:
When the Crime takes place over the Internet, Legal jurisdictions, boundary politics, and direct attributions are some major bottlenecks in dealing with it and when combined with almost impenetrable anonymity, it would seem nearly impossible for States to be able to tackle this without mutual cooperation. One of the famous examples of such International Cooperation was the busting of Shiny Flakes, an Online Dark Web Drug Hub based in Germany. The mechanism of “mutual legal assistance”, wherein a Nation may request another for the issuance of a warrant for investigation against a crime which is suspected by the requesting Nation is an effective approach for such cooperation.
On a technical viewpoint, The United States of America’s Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency(DARPA) developed a Search Engine called “memex”, which can potentially help in fighting Crime that occurs around the World and is made known on the Dark Web, and since the Search Engine is considered to be a Public Source, it is not exclusive to the DARPA. Even though Memex does not directly uncover IP Addresses of the users committing Crimes over the Dark Web, it identifies and analyzes the pattern and all the other relevant constraints while indexing many non-indexed webpages. The direction pointed by memex can be used to possibly trace back to the users involved in Heinous Crimes. There has been strong demand by the public for tightening Privacy norms by the States and against projects like memex owing to which DARPA characterized the nature of memex as a tool for combating Human and Drug Trafficking, not a public surveillance program.
In one of the more traditional ways, which is largely believed to have been used when Silk Road was taken down and its founder Ross Ulbricht was arrested is the use of informants and undercover operations as the Agencies have clarified that there was no unethical way involved in the arrest. Infiltrating the rings of Cybercriminals is with the aid of volunteers specializing in the Internet of Things is not only an efficient way of helping the situation but also takes away, to some extent, the burden from Agencies involved in combating Crimes.
The Dark Web is a place of a very complex nature. Contrary to the superficial Web, it has extreme Human Degeneracy and there is not much that can be done as of now. If one somehow is unfortunate enough to find any kind of information over the network, such as Banking Details and Login Credentials; the person should change such information forthwith and report to the Cyber Security Cell of their Country.
The dark web is the place where evil and vigilantes reside one click apart from each other. One thing is for certain — one wrong click will change your perspective on Humanity unreservedly.
– Osho Dubey,
Writer, Bharat Bhagya Vidhata.
Rob Jansen, Florian Tschorsch, and Aaron Johnson, et al., “The Sniper Attack: Anonymously Deanonymizing and Disabling the Tor Network,” December 2013
“Anonymous Hacks Freedom Hosting II, Bringing Down Almost 20% of Active Darknet Sites,” DeepDotWeb, February 9, 2017.
 Mike Carter, “Investigation of FBI’s Child Pornography Operation Sparks Controversy Over Internet Privacy”, Government Technology, August 31, 2016.
“Crazy Photos of Drugs Seized in the Largest Deep Web Drug Bust”, Rob Price, BUSINESS INSIDER.
“Death of the Dark Web? DARPA’s Memex Search Engine Allows Tor Tracking”, INTERNATIONAL BUSINESS TIMEShttp://www.ibtimes.co.uk/death-darkweb-darpas-memex-search-engine-allows-tor-tracking-1488124.