In this essay, we will discuss the dark web, how it helps in doing illegal activities and what are the law enforcement efforts made by the United States to prevent such activities.
The Dark Web
The known source for such illegal and malicious activities is the Tor network which helps in accessing the deep web (anonymous & private network). The Tor network can only be accessed with the help of a special browser known as the Tor browser. This network is heavily used for doing illegal activities as it keeps the user’s online communication, activities and transferred data hidden from hackers, government spies, internet service providers, and third-party marketers. It is interesting to know that the dark web is also used by governments, journalists, military, whistleblowers, etc. to exchange secret documents and information. In our social and political discourse, anonymous interaction and communication have an important place and therefore, the dark web is the preferred channel (Gehl, 2014).
Dark web & Cyber-crimes in the United States
• Hacking- It’s a type of crime in which the computers and computer networks are hacked to get the secret information.
• Identity theft- People who use the internet for online transactions suffer from this. In this, their personal details like the bank account, credit card, social security number, debit card, etc. are accessed and used for illegal activities.
• Child abuse and Soliciting- Under this, children are monitored by criminals for the purpose of child pornography. The FBI is seriously monitoring chat rooms that are frequently used by children.
• Theft of sensitive data- The act of stealing the secret data of the government and the various other organizations is a criminal offense.
• Increasing terrorism- The United States is very strict when it comes to terrorism. Any activity that helps in initiating or increasing terrorism is a crime, and the person responsible for it can be severely punished according to the United States laws.
• Sale and purchase of weapons and ammunitions- Sale and purchase of arms and ammunitions is illegal in the United States as such activities can result to the criminal activities and loss of human lives.
• Sale and purchase of drugs- In the United States, it is illegal to sell and purchase banned drugs. People often used the deep web in order to sale and purchase such drugs which are a criminal offense.
("Cyber Crime", 2016)
There are a lot of cyber activities other than the above that are considered criminal offenses in the United States. The mentioned activities are the major activities that are done on the deep web. All these are criminal offenses, and if a person is found and detected doing so, he can be punished by the court of law of the United States.
The law enforcement also uses the anonymity of the dark web to conduct online surveillance in order to maintain anonymous tip lines. It is believed that though the activities are anonymous, there are means and methods through which law enforcement can trace and detect illegal and malicious activities. The FBI has done a lot of work to track illegal activities. It has put resources for the development of such malware that can help in identifying certain Tor users by compromising the servers. Since the last fourteen years, the FBI is using a ‘computer and internet protocol address verifier’ (CIPAV) to trace the users who disguise their identity and location with the help of anonymity services or proxy servers, like Tor. This is used to target the extortionists, online sexual predators, hackers and others (2016).
Law enforcement relies upon the mistakes done by the offenders and criminals in technology in order to target them. For example, the FBI took down the Silk Road in 2013 as the site operator did some mistakes (misstep). The federal agents were able to find the weakness in the codes of the computer that were used to operate the Silk Road website. They used those weaknesses which helped them to trace and hack the server as well as forcing them to reveal their unique web addresses. After that, the servers were located, and law enforcement was asked to seize them. In another event, after the detection of the Silk Road website, another website emerged with the name Silk Road 2.0. It was found by the FBI that the owner of the website had made critical errors like using the personal e-mail address to register the server etc., the servers were immediately seized by the federal agents, and the related websites were shut down (2016).
It is not an easy task for law enforcement to trace the criminals active on the dark web because the criminals use advanced tools and technology to conduct their activities. Though the law enforcement aims to win over the criminals operating in the dark web technologically, it can use the traditional tools crime-fighting means. For instance, law enforcement can ask for the necessary information from the entities that are responsible for the collection of identifying information on users. Below are the ways through which the law enforcement monitors the dark web:
• Mapping the hidden service directory
• Social site monitoring
• Customer data monitoring
• Semantic analysis
• Hidden service monitoring
• Marketplace profiling
("Cyber Crime | USAO | Department of Justice", 2016)
The FBI is very confident that they will be able to track the criminals who use the dark web and think they can run away from the laws. The FBI director has said that the criminals who think they won't be traced by law enforcement are actually "kidding themselves."
The government of the United States has made numerous laws to prevent and track such illegal activities that are being operated online. The FBI has been successful quite a few times but still a lot of work is left to be done in order to track and seize the criminals. It has also given tips to the people with the help of which they can avoid internet frauds ("Internet Fraud", 2016). Despite being confident about tracking the criminals active on the dark web and operating criminal activities, the FBI still needs to do research and bring in a lot of technologies so track, seize and stop the criminals operating online.
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