The law enforcement landscape has changed tremendously over the years in response to particular technological advancements. Worse, criminal enterprises have shifted shop from street-level settings to the internet in a bid to elude the authorities.
While most people may expect a significant level of success in law enforcement, thanks to digitalized police departments, it appears that investigators continue to grapple with a host of pertinent challenges impeding their work.
Root of the Problem
To establish why law enforcement has become a huge challenge online, it is critical for us to understand the internet’s three elements. First, the surface web can be accessed through traditional search engines.
Beyond the surface web lies the deep web, which accounts for the largest proportion of the entire internet universe. The term “deep web” describes private servers that can only be accessed by authorized persons, intranets employed by firms, or social media pages whose users intend to keep hidden from the public.
The third section is the dark web, which denotes a segment of the deep web that has been specifically made inaccessible via traditional browsers. People looking to surf hidden sites in the dark web can only do so by employing special tools and browsers dedicated towards providing user anonymity.
For this reason, the dark web has created an ample breeding ground for various criminal elements looking to work under the radar of law enforcement.
What are the Challenges?
Generally, the rapid changes within dark web criminal circles present a unique challenge to law enforcement efforts. Experts find the occurrence of evidence showing a steady spread of dark web activities – but they lack concrete quantitative data to empower effective responses and solutions to police the darknet.
Globalization is also a significant impediment to efficient anti-dark web law enforcement. The fact that dark web criminal activities transcend local and international borders creates a rather problematic jurisdictional ambiguity.
The expansive nature of dark web criminal activity has therefore compelled relevant authorities to team up with foreign law enforcement agencies to go after their targets. It is clear that dark web actors gain more leverage when countries and international police departments fail to partner in achieving objective and common goals.
The dark web ecosystem is marked by a series of never-ending cyber advancements that may throw the typical investigator into confusion. Today, most law enforcement agencies are manned by investigators with limited knowledge on modern cyber technologies.
Apart from little officer knowledge on dark web matters, the aspect of cross-jurisdictional coordination makes an already-bad situation worse. Trans-boundary partnerships are mostly affected by challenges surrounding information exchange.
Law enforcement agencies have encountered significant legal obstacles when investigating dark web crimes. It is difficult to accurately point out the jurisdiction where a crime is suspected or identified.
The possibility that a dark web criminal is running servers on soils foreign to their specific location is very high. In addition, the legal challenge occurs when investigators employ network investigative techniques to solve dark web crimes – methodologies involving the installation of exploit software to breach suspect computers.
Anti-dark web law enforcement agencies face the challenge of familiarizing with up-to-date tools and skills that would be needed to crack down on cybercriminals. The inadequate access to relevant technical data culminates in the challenge to convert the same to evidence that would be easily digested by both judicial systems and the public.
The evidence challenge is exacerbated by the expansion of data quantity, hard-to-decipher formats, and the critical need for inter-jurisdictional law enforcement coordination. Thus, it becomes critical that law enforcement units invest in high priority research and development activities to create standards for new processed and tools to capture evidence.