Saturday, August 8, 2015

Darknet, where child pornography is rampant

Child porn is rampant in what is known as the dark web or darknet. The part of Internet that cannot be reached by using a search engine like Google. It is that part which is accessed using a special browser (TOR) which is freely downloadable, and works to ensure the anonymity of the user online. It achieves this by use of encryption and bouncing encrypted communication across a network of nodes before it reaches the intended site. The information that the intended site possess is the IP address of the last node which makes the original destination anonymous. The downside of the TOR network is its slow speed.

Coupling an anonymous network with an anonymous currency like BITCOIN allows illegal activity such as the buying and selling of drugs, child porn, and counterfeits to flourish without the fear of tracking either information or financial flows. Cybercriminals, terrorists, drug peddlers and pedophiles among others, use the darknet to further their business as the darknet protects both them and their customer’s identities.

Criminal users on the darknet are savvy and sophisticated in covering their tracks and erasing the digital fingerprints they leave online. They conduct their business on secret password protected websites limited to trusted users (excluding undercover police), utilize sophisticated hard disk encryption (including some with multiple passwords, each opening up a different volume), distributed storage across multiple computers to ensure that each computer will not have a complete image and move sites frequently.  These tactics coupled with the volume of sites on the darknet makes it a formidable task for law enforcement to identify criminal rings and catch them.

Making the darknet safe requires detectives to impersonate criminals or their customers to infiltrate criminal rings. It is a tedious task with limitations in jurisdiction and prosecution. In the next few years this old fashioned method will be supplemented with technology to map and analyze darknet sites, contents and activity to profile criminal behavior.

For Governments wanting to crack down on child porn, like as in India, the only option is to set-up a team of specialized investigators to explore darknet activity originating from within the country and to partner with their counterparts from like thinking countries to nab criminals within their jurisdiction.

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