The Dark Web in the Age of the Internet, from Beginnings to Homeward Bound

Author丨Chen Gen

When the Internet has become an indispensable and important force in the process of promoting the development of human society, along with the unique unboundedness and concealment characteristics of the Internet, many hidden dangers to social security have gradually emerged.

Network illegal crimes occur frequently, which makes various contradictions and social problems continue to appear. Since the beginning of this year, from the incident in Room N that shocked the whole country, to the case of Bao Yuming’s adoption of daughters involved in the online delivery of black production chain, behind the pornography live broadcast is a huge pornography industry. Data leaks and information reselling have emerged one after another. These malicious cybercrimes are all related to the same source: the dark web.

Although most people are not unfamiliar with the “dark web,” few seem to really understand the dark web. As the dark web is synonymous with cybercrime, where does the “Pandora’s Box” that hides dirt come from, and how should it be controlled?

From surface network to deep network

Everything should have a starting point. From the surface network to the deep network, the Internet is far beyond our imagination.

The Internet we currently use is only a small part of the Internet , the surface network ( also known as  surface web  or clear net) In the surface network, whether it is an ordinary user or a security expert, most people surf the Internet in the same way: bundled with several popular websites and chat clients, or browsed pages through search engines. And this kind of activity completed by traditional browsers and applications almost occupies most of the content.

However, although the content seems very rich, it is only a small part of what the Internet can provide. According to public data, this part is only 4% to 20%. If the Internet is regarded as an iceberg, the surface network is the tip of the iceberg.

As a result, there is a huge collection of unindexed websites, private pages, and hidden networks. Those that cannot be detected by regular search engines are known as deep networks , which account for more than 80% of the entire Internet. The deep web covers almost anything hidden from the public eye, including exclusive and paid content, private repositories, academic journals, medical records, and company confidential data. Broadly speaking, even the content of an email server is part of the deep web.

The dark web can be regarded as a subset of the deep web. The dark web is an encrypted anonymous network based on the Internet and requires access to specific software and other configurations or authorizations Although the dark web is only a small part of the deep web, it still accounts for about 5% of the entire Internet and accounts for most of the malicious activities on the Internet. Since the dark web cannot be accessed directly, users need to use special software, such as Tor browser, I2P or Freenet. It is worth mentioning that Tor (short for Onion Routing), the most popular and practical anonymous communication system at present, is a common way for individuals to access the dark web and the emergence of Tor is related to the development of the dark web .

Tor appeared in the late 1990s. Tor was born from a project of the US military. The original intention of development was to realize military data protection and encryption. Tor’s communication relies on a network of volunteer computer nodes using the software. All network traffic of the user will be encrypted and transmitted through a series of other users’ computer nodes in the network, so that the traffic cannot be traced back to the original user. By establishing a “hidden service”, service providers and service requesters are anonymous to each other during the entire communication process. The Tor-based dark web uses this protocol to maintain the anonymity of dark web users.

At this point, it should be pointed out that many dark webs do not have any malicious intentions, including platforms such as Tor, which are not malicious software themselves, and their technology is also used by many legitimate companies. But it is precisely because of the anonymity and difficulty of traceability of the dark web that while the dark web gives people more freedom, it also makes the value of order more difficult to guarantee.

What’s in the dark web?

The truth is that almost anything is sold on the dark web. All of these are not under the control of website owners or government departments, and they are all protected by encryption. This seems to provide a natural breeding condition for network crimes, including the sale of goods, pornographic services, personal information and data reselling, etc.

In the era of big data, as data grows exponentially, data breaches occur frequently, and data transactions are mostly done on the dark web . The 2018 data breach research conducted by the international authority Ponemon Institute and IBM Security found that the losses caused by data breaches through the dark web are still increasing, and consumer personal records are still lost or stolen year after year Land continues to increase.

Although the level of security and defense has improved, countries are still at a disadvantage in the battle against dark web attacks. According to FreeBuf reports, on August 28, 2018, a post appeared in a Chinese forum on the dark web, claiming to sell all the hotel data of Huazhu. The data was priced at 8 bitcoins, about 370,000 yuan, and the data breach involved 130 million individuals. Information and room opening records. After the incident was exposed, there was an uproar on the Chinese Internet, but such an incident was not an isolated incident.

In addition to data leaks, the crime of pornographic services on the dark web is also extremely bad, especially child pornography is more rampant. In 2016, four Germans set up and operated the child pornography platform “Elysium”, and its platform applications belonged to the “dark web” or “dark web” with extremely high density. The pornographic images of children circulating on this platform cover everything from babies to young children, boys to girls, same sex and opposite sex. As of June 2017, the website has a total of 110,000 members worldwide. The wide area, scale and number of people shocked the world.

In March 2019, the Limburg District Court in Germany issued a judgment on this case. The four founders of the website were sentenced to 4 to 10 for “establishing and operating a child pornography platform, holding and disseminating sexual abuse images of children and even babies”. Years in prison. The “Elysium” dark web platform is just the tip of the iceberg of German child pornography networks.

This is also true of the “Room N” incident exposed in South Korea this year. The 260,000 perpetrators shocked the entire South Korea for the exploitation of online pornography victims, and this group of people used the “dark web” to avoid tracing, watch and exchange pornographic images, and even commit crimes of sexual abuse.

In addition, cryptocurrencies occupy the main battlefield of the dark web . On the one hand, cryptocurrency is favored by dark web traders for its encryption and security, but it also brings convenience to dark web transactions, spawning more crimes or money laundering activities; on the other hand, dark web is related to cryptocurrency The criminal behavior of the company provides a platform for money laundering or stolen goods, making cryptocurrency more and more secure. Therefore, when cryptocurrency is mixed with the dark web, it becomes a vicious circle of evil.

Among the cryptocurrencies, the most familiar one is Bitcoin. Bitcoin, as a decentralized digital currency, uses anonymous peer-to-peer transactions. The user’s address is associated and stored in the “electronic wallet”, which contains the individual’s “private key”, which is a string of secret numbers, allowing the person to spend bitcoins from the corresponding electronic wallet, similar to a password. The transaction address and encrypted signature are used to verify the transaction, the wallet and private key are not recorded in the public ledger, and the electronic wallet can be hosted on the network.

In 2011, the “Silk Road” was born, and cryptocurrency officially became the “official” currency in the darknet market. The emergence of Bitcoin solves the anonymity problem of traders’ transaction settlement in the dark web market and frees criminal behavior from the risk of being tracked by traditional financial systems . And because Bitcoin has no issuing agency, there is no crisis of being frozen like ordinary currencies, so it has become a new way for criminals to blackmail. In May 2017, the Wanna Cry ransomware became popular all over the world. Virus makers locked “poisoned” users and demanded payment of a certain amount of Bitcoin as the price of unlocking.

According to a report released by Recorded Future in early 2018, in recent years, the currency used by darknet exchanges is still dominated by Bitcoin, but more convenient and safer Litecoin and even Monero and other cryptocurrencies have gradually become popular. network.

How to deal with dark web crimes?

The dark web provides criminals with opportunities to challenge “boundaries”, including physical boundaries and network boundaries. As long as the network can reach, there is a possibility of crime. Although the dark web has the characteristics of easy access, strong concealment, and special trading methods, the dark web can easily become a channel for obscene information dissemination, a trading platform for illegal items, and a safe haven for terrorism. Although dark web transactions are very harmful to social security, we can still take effective actions to manage the dark web.

First, it is necessary to deepen technological innovation and squeeze the living space of the dark web . Regarding the unpredictable and turbulent dark web, permanent blockade is not a permanent solution. We need to continue to dig and strictly investigate all illegal and criminal activities on the dark web.

In fact, not just criminals rely on the anonymity of the dark network, law enforcement officers can their eye for an eye person in his body the dark network for their own use Although the dark web can easily become a “hotbed” of crime, it does not mean that the dark web is “useless”. The dark web can be used in many fields, especially military communications, e-commerce and other fields that require high data security and communication security. If you want to deal with dark web crimes from a technical level, the most important thing is to be able to detect crimes on the dark web in time Information, which requires the improvement of technology monitoring and technology application for the dark web.

Including strengthening the cooperation between the government and enterprises on dark web technology, giving full play to the advantageous role of China’s well-known Internet security companies such as Tencent, 360, Baidu, Meiya, Fiberhome, etc., and continuously researching and developing methods to block and crack illegal and criminal information on the dark web. Difficulties, focusing on strengthening research on the interception and cracking of anonymous illegal information on the dark web. At the same time, while protecting the legality of personal anonymous information, we strive to achieve point-to-point accurate discovery of information.

Second, for darknet crimes, we need to start with the governance of the macro environment. Cut off the black and gray industry chain, severely crack down on the source of the leakage of citizens’ personal information, cut off the channels of personal information sales, and crack down on black card and black account trading and other gray industry behaviors . If the soil of the internet industry is wiped out, cybercrime will naturally be hidden.

This requires perfecting the double investigation system for one case, urging networked units and enterprises to implement safety management responsibility systems and emergency response measures, and strictly investigating and punishing units and enterprises that refuse to implement Internet security. For dark web crimes that occur, it is necessary to investigate the case itself, as well as online liability platforms and related Internet companies. Second, we must further strengthen the governance and control of information, intensify the cleanup and investigation of illegal information on the dark web, and insist on cracking down while cleaning up. Third, we must solve the most fundamental problems at the bottom. Cracking down on dark web crime requires high-tech investment, as well as solving the most fundamental problems.

Third, we must strengthen international cyberspace and information security cooperation and legislative restrictions on the abuse of superior technologies Although the Internet is intangible, people who use the Internet are all tangible. The Internet is not a place outside the law. Freedom and order need to be balanced.

On the one hand, the international community must accelerate the process of formulating codes of conduct in cyberspace under the framework of the United Nations. All countries, especially the cyber powers, must restrain their own behavior, abandon the Cold War and military thinking, and don’t talk about maintaining the stability of cyberspace, but use it as a slogan and banner to criticize other countries, but they still pursue it behind the scenes. Cyber ​​hegemony, cyber deterrence.

On the other hand, it is to carry out active and effective international cooperation, break down legal and institutional barriers, work together to encircle hacker organizations all over the world, curb the development momentum of underground black markets such as the dark web, and prevent the proliferation and abuse of destructive network technologies. In order to fundamentally guarantee the active application of Tor on the Internet, and avoid the private use and abuse of the Internet by the United States and other technological powers, it is necessary to promote the establishment of a multi-party, transparent and democratic Internet governance mechanism, and to speed up the formulation of rules of behavior in cyberspace to regulate various The behavior of similar subjects accelerates the establishment of a new order in cyberspace.

With the rapid development of the Internet, people have become more and more dependent on the Internet. However, the frequent media exposure of dark web events has also continuously pushed the dark web into the Chinese public’s view. With the continuous expansion of the number of people visiting the dark web in my country and the increasing number of criminal cases involving the dark web, the dark web has become a new field of cyberspace governance in my country. To maintain the security of our country’s network, we must pay attention to the threat of darknet crimes, make effective adjustments to the network, and make corresponding responses in time. This is also an important issue that cannot be avoided in the technological age.

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