Centre for Internet & Society

An increasing number of cyber criminals are using the dark web — the encrypted part of the internet that cannot be tracked — to shop for software that helps them remain anonymous while carrying out their crimes.

The article by Tushar Kaushik was published in Economic Times on May 2, 2019. Karan Saini was quoted.

The dark web is a part of the deep web, the non-indexed part of the world wide web that cannot be accessed by standard search engines such as Google and requires encrypted networks such as Tor browser.

The most significant feature of this world is that the identity of its users is hidden and cannot be tracked, which is why several illicit products such as weapons and drugs are available here. Cyber criminals, too, appear to be shopping here.

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. “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.

Those fighting cyber crime in Bengaluru say that as most cases are not detected, chances are that more and more criminals are using the dark web. While investigating a case recently, a suspect admitted to having downloaded a software from the dark web that enabled him to disguise his number and also prevent it from being traced, the police said. “If a person has used tools from the dark web to hide his number, the investigation ends right there, as we do not have the necessary tools and software to trace the person,” a senior police officer said.

Experts say that while there are ways to trace activity on the dark web, police officials would require special training and specific information about the activity. Security researcher and policy officer at the Centre for Internet and Society Karan Saini said, “Attempting to track unconventional online behaviour would call for development of new methods, along with formal training for those involved, especially if malicious actors are using the Tor network to carry out illicit activities instead of the clear web.

Halvi said some agencies like the FBI deploy ethical hackers to track specific websites on the dark web. “But they, too, have to rely on getting specific information from people to investigate the dark web. It is a time-consuming process.”

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.

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