The Dark Web Crimes

Ross Ulbricht was arrested by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) in 2013 for operating an online marketplace for illicit drugs called Silk Road. The site could be found on the so-called Dark Web where Ulbricht remained anonymous and thus shielded from law enforcement. Silk Road was not accessible through just any desktop browser, nor could buyers use their credit card for purchases of heroin, methamphetamine, or other substances.

As Silk Road was shut down, others filled the void. As the name would suggest, the Dark Web operates in the shadows of the internet, cloaked in encryption and reached only through certain encrypted browsers. Below, we’ll explain what the Dark Web is, how it differs from the Deep Web, the types of crimes it harbors, and how law enforcement tracks and prosecutes Dark Web crimes.

The Dark Web allows users to remain anonymous through encryption. This is attractive to anyone involved in illegal activity, such as child pornography, sex trafficking, illicit drugs, or counterfeit goods. But it also may be useful for anyone living in an authoritarian state wishing to communicate with the outside world, as well as providing a safe space for whistleblowers. So while it’s not illegal to visit the Dark Web, it provides access to illegal activities.

Web sites that exist on the Dark Web are encrypted (and thus difficult to track), most commonly through the Tor encryption tool. Therefore, most Dark Web users access those sites using the Tor browser. There are other encryption tools and corresponding browsers such as I2P (these are not universal, by design) and you have to know the exact URL in order to access the site. There’s no “Google” for the Dark Web because that kind of indexing would provide a breadcrumb trail for investigators.

Another layer of anonymity involves the way payments are processed. Silk Road, for example, only accepted payment via Bitcoin, which is an unregulated cryptocurrency. As with the Dark Web generally, there’s nothing illegal about using Bitcoin. But the anonymity of Bitcoin payments is attractive to those making illegal transactions.

The term “Deep Web” refers to web sites that can’t be found by search engines, but that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re part of the Dark Web. For instance, the Deep Web includes things like web forums that require registration, news sites that exist behind paywalls, and other pages that aren’t necessarily secret but also not worth (or blocked from) indexing by search engines. The content management systems used by website operators to upload and manage content also are part of the Deep Web, for example.

But the Deep Web — by far the largest segment of the internet — also includes the Dark Web, since it also can’t be tracked or indexed by search engines. The terms are often interchanged, but they refer to distinctly different things. Also, keep in mind that the term “Dark Internet” is where raw data for scientific research is stored and isn’t synonymous with the Dark Web.

Due to the anonymous nature of the Dark Web, investigators have their work cut out for them. One of the main ways to catch criminals is by going undercover online, which can sometimes lead to real-life connections when, for example, an officer posing as a seller obtains the buyer’s mailing address. Also, the target of an investigation may slip up and reveal personally identifying information. In fact, an investigator with the Internal Revenue Service found an incriminating comment by Silk Road’s Ulbricht along with his email address, which would lead to his eventual arrest.

Since many of the transactions conducted via the Dark Web are completed by the U.S. Postal Service, police sometimes are able to match online clues with surveillance footage, handwriting analysis, and other clues. They may even find fingerprints on the package, potentially revealing the sender’s identity. Following the money also can be effective, even though the anonymous nature of Bitcoin makes that much more difficult. Still, the Department of Homeland Security has a dedicated task force focused on tracking money laundering via cryptocurrencies.

If you or a loved one is in a bind as a result of a criminal charge, immediately contact a Seattle Criminal Attorney. A Criminal lawyer is not going to judge you, and understands that everyone makes mistakes. Hiring a Seattle Criminal Lawyer to help can – at a minimum – reduce penalties, and can help direct people on how to best deal with their criminal charge, and many times even get them dismissed. So it should go without saying that someone cited for a misdemeanor or felony should hire a qualified Seattle Criminal Lawyer as soon as possible. Criminal charges can cause havoc on a person’s personal and professional life. Anyone charged with a crime in Washington State should immediately seek the assistance of a seasoned Seattle Criminal Lawyer.

Leave a reply