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What is the Dark Web?
The Dark Web is a term used to refer to a hidden, hard-to-access Internet world of dual nature. The good there cohabitates with the bad, and one is impossible without the other. On the plus side, the Dark Web is a place that enables great anonymity of and safety of communication routes for individuals or groups of individuals who would otherwise be targeted by authoritarian governments for expressing their views online.
On the downside, the dark web has evolved into a major center of criminal activity – a full-scale free marketplace – where anonymous buyers can purchase illegal products and services from nameless sellers using untraceable cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin. Except that it is a venue for mostly illegal activities, the Dark Web market operates just like any other marketplace available on the public web, with there even being own customer ratings and tools used to sieve away fraudsters.
How are criminals caught on the Dark Web?
The use of cryptographic technologies has allowed criminals to thrive in the Dark Web market where they sell and buy drugs, weapons, stolen goods, confidential information, and more. The police and other agencies of law enforcement in the news are often made to look powerless against these digital criminal rings. The truth is there are all kinds of measures being taken and new law enforcement technology being implemented to put an end to illegal operations in the online space.
Utilizing some of the new technology in law enforcement, the police have been conducting local and internationally coordinated raids to curb criminal activity on major online marketplaces operating in the Deep Web. Among the most successful Internet crime squad operations, there is the 2013 closure of the notorious Silk Road narcotics bazaar, the temporary shutdown of Agora in 2015, the bust of AlphaBay and Hansa in 2017, and the takedown of Wall Street Marketplace and Valhalla Marketplace in 2019.
Several methods are currently used to search for individuals involved in criminal activity on the Dark Web, including:
- an old-fashioned police investigation;
- retrieving data from public websites;
- intercepting postal items;
- using Big data and machine learning;
- tracking cash flows;
- undercover work;
Despite the best law enforcement efforts to shut down illegal marketplaces, cybercrime is still rampant. The good news is that these Dark Web platforms either fail to expand as quickly as before or choose to be extra discreet, fearful of law enforcement interventions and police counterattacks.