The Dark Web: The Internet behind Internet
Combating criminal activities operating in the Dark Web environment requires being more proactive as compared to traditional security, said Datuk Akhbar Satar.
The entire world is online. By using a standard browser together with an internet connection we can get access to a wealth of information. The Internet makes it is easy to search anything online using common search engines. But do you know that there are also web pages which are not accessible through the normal Internet browsing?
According to The Guardian, only 0.03 % of the internet is indexed and thus can be accessed through search engines such as Google. The rest of the content is hidden and are found in the Deep Web, the subset of World Wide Web, whose contents are not indexed by standard search engines; hence it is invisible to most Internet users. However this is not to say the Deep Web is necessarily malicious.
What is disconcerting about the Deep Web is a part of it called the Dark Web, which is also internationally hidden and not accessible through the standard web browsers. In order to get access to this level, you need to get a special browser.
The Dark Web is dangerous because it consists of both legal and illegal content. This web is used to control access and for privacy because it is dealing with confidential but also illegal activities. It is known to be associated with criminal activity of various degrees from hitman to heroin using their underworld part of the internet.
The web-based gangs, organized criminals, Mafia and terrorists misuse this Web as marketplace for purchasing illegal goods such as drugs, human organs, child abuse and pedophile material, counterfeit money, fake passport, firearms, ammunition, and explosive. It also involves money laundering, human trafficking, prostitutions, child pornography as well as exploitation, child grooming and bounty hunters.
The National Drug and Alcohol Research Centre (NDARC) based at the University of NSW stated that the Australian drug dealers are the most prevalent users of the Dark Web per capita than any other nationality.
In another new report titled The Anatomy of Cyber-Jihad: Cyberspace is the New Great Equalizer, James Scott revealed there are series of forums and communications channels where Daesh and extremists can get advice on how they contribute to the movement in the Dark Web.
Some cybercriminals who build software to attack or hack businesses or government departments also live and thrive in the Dark web.
Even some political activists also take advantage of this network as they become virtually untraceable and can operate beyond supervision of the law enforcement agencies.
The Dark Web is accessible only with specialized software known as TOR (the Onion Routing). It is a web browser heavily encrypted and designed for anonymous web surfing and protection against traffic analysis.
TOR was developed by the US Naval Research Laboratory with the purpose of protecting US Intelligence communication online. However, now TOR is a non-profit operated server which allows anyone to have use of its services to protect privacy and security on the internet.
Even though TOR is normally associated with the criminal and illegitimate activities, the browser is also used for legitimate purposes by governments, law enforcement agencies, politicians, activists, whistle blowers, organizations, journalists and reporters seeking a more accessible and secure internet experience and to protect themselves.
Combating criminal activities operating in the Dark Web environment requires being more proactive as compared to traditional security. It demands cyber security experts and technical resources combined with an innovative approach.
The Malaysian government has to introduce a dedicated cybercrime unit to tackle the Dark Web. As for short term measures, the relevant law enforcement agencies and regulators should form a task force with Cybersecurity Malaysia and acquire the capabilities pertaining to Deep Web analysis. This is to enable the task force to conduct investigation effectively on serious criminal activities operating in the Dark Web.
For long term planning, the Government may consider forming a federal crime agency with a range of specialist capabilities to fight serious organized crime. The agency can response to a wide range of threats in the country including cybercrime, drug, human and weapon trafficking and economic crime.
In 2013, the UK the government formed the National Crime Agency (NCA) and this law enforcement intelligence-led agency fights against serious and organized crime very effectively. The NCA has launched a dedicated cybercrime unit to tackle the Dark Web.
Finally, Malaysia should also introduce a National Plan to Fight Cybercrime. According to the 2014 Global Economic Crime Survey by PricewaterhouseCoopers (PWC), cybercrime will likely emerge as "the most popular" type of economic crime in Malaysia as more IT-related transactions are made in the future. The plan represents a national commitment to ensure a safer and more secure from cyber-attacks. Besides combating cybercrime, prevention and mitigation are very vital aspects in fighting against cybercriminals and terrorists especially in the Dark Web.
Views expressed are personally those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Astro AWANI.