“The Dark Web is no longer a hiding place for criminals!”
Tweet from Europol, the pan-European law enforcement organization, after a meeting in May establishing a task force against the dark web.
This is a very good sign. Europe is ready to get serious about fighting crime schemes hatched on the dark web, the infamous home of hackers, pedophiles, terrorists, and other undesirables. Representatives of 28 countries met in The Hague to discuss “how best countries can work together with Europol’s recently established dedicated dark web team, and pursue its aim of fighting crime on the dark web,” according to an EU press release.
According to the release, the meeting resulted in the creation of a dark web investigation team, which will “share information, provide operational support and expertise in different crime areas, and develop tools and approaches to conducting dark web investigations.”
It’s the fluid nature of the dark web – the fact that it cannot be indexed or searched in the same way the surface web is, that all aspects of it are anonymous, that sites disappear as quickly as they appear – that makes tracking down criminals so difficult.
Relying on criminals’ mistakes is not how Europol – or any other agency – will be able to back up that enthusiastic tweet. How then can they do so? The only way is to proactively search out dark web criminals, and establish patterns of behavior and links to activities on the surface web.
The only way to do that search is by utilizing specialized software and systems that can scan the dark web and collect this information. Part of that specialization is the requirement that systems be robust enough to scan dozens, if not hundreds of dark web sources and develop a profile that can be analyzed.
That analysis entails looking for connections and threads that can lead to the possible identity of cyber-criminals. For example, a thorough search of a dark web transactions can lead to the identity of a server where a dark web criminal converts cryptocurrency into regular money. Cyber-criminals eventually have to do that if they want to buy non-virtual products, or they could try to move the money into a bank account somewhere. The bottom line is that in many cases, criminals leave strong identifiers that help in the process of tracking them down – and a good analysis system will take advantage of that.
That kind of advanced analysis system can make those connections even in the wake of the advanced tools hackers use today – which makes it even harder than it has been to track them down. The more the dark web is monitored, and the more its secrets are unearthed, the more its data can be analyzed – making it more likely that criminals will be caught, sooner rather than later.