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Burning Issues

[Burning Issue] Rise of DarkNet/Darkweb

Context

The dark web refers to websites on the darknet, a network built over the internet which provides added anonymity. Many users surf the dark web due to its greater privacy levels compared to the regular internet, AKA the ‘clear web’. It can also, however, offer a platform to criminals looking to trade illegal goods and orchestrate darknet scams.

Introduction

  • A darknet or darknet is an overlay network within the Internet that can only be accessed with specific software, configurations, or authorization, and often uses a unique customized communication protocol.
  • Dark Web is the virtual equivalent of a black market. Like Silk Road that marketed illegal drugs through the Dark Web, entities that want to operate out of the arms of the law seek refuge in the Dark Web.
  • The darknet, also known as the “dark web,” is a component of the greater “deep web,” a network of encrypted Internet content that is not accessible via traditional search engines.
  • The darknet is most often used for illegal activities such as black markets, illegal file sharing, and the exchanging of illegal goods or services (including stolen financial and private data), and the anonymity of the darknet attracts drug dealers, hackers, and child pornography peddlers.
  • Darknet markets have been instrumental in the development of cryptocurrencies because transactions completed on darknet markets using cryptocurrency protect both the buyer and seller.

Darknet Vs Darkweb

  • The terms “darknet” and “deep web” are occasionally used interchangeably. However, this is not correct.
  • The darknet is part of the greater deep web. The deep web encompasses all unindexed sites that don’t pop up when you do an Internet search.
  • Not all activities associated with the deep web are nefarious. In most cases, these pages are not searchable through traditional channels.
  • The darknet is part of the deep web, but it refers to websites that are specifically used for nefarious reasons. Darknet sites are purposefully hidden from the surface net by additional means. 

How it works

  • One of the most common ways that darknet websites are separated out from the surface net is through encryption. Most darknet websites use the Tor encryption tool to help hide their identity.
  • Tor allows individuals to hide their location, appearing as if they are in a different country. 
  • When individuals use Tor, their IP addresses and other identifying information are similarly encrypted.
  • It is not difficult for an individual to access the darknet as long as they have the proper encryption tools. 
  • The Tor encryption tool uses many layers of encryption and anonymizes all traffic by routing it through a dense network of secure relays. 
  • Tor software is not illegal but the way that it is used can be illegal. Tor is not always used to access darknet services.

Advantages

  • Express views: The dark web helps people to maintain privacy and freely express their views. Privacy is essential for many innocent people terrorized by stalkers and other criminals. 
  • Facilitate whistleblowing :The dark net can facilitate whistleblowing and news leaks, act as a tool to allow individuals to circumvent censorship networks, and can be used as a means of protecting political dissidents from reprisal.
  • Journalists seeking to interview citizens of repressive countries where communications are monitored might use the dark net. 
  • Undercover activities: The popularity of the dark web with criminals makes it a perfect way for undercover police officers to communicate.

Disadvantages

  • Computer crime (cracking, file corruption, etc.)
  • File sharing (warez, personal files, pornography, confidential files, illegal or counterfeit software, etc.)
  • Sale of restricted goods on darknet markets
  • Purchase or sale of illicit or illegal goods or services
  • Circumventing network censorship and content-filtering systems, or bypassing restrictive firewall policies.
  • While the dark web promises privacy to its users, it can also be used to violate the privacy of others. Private photos, medical records, and financial information have all been stolen and shared on the dark web.

Need of a data protection law

Data protection is a must in the age of digital era. The law should encompass all the aspects- data collection, processing and sharing practices in an integrated manner. The Kerala Police has set up a ‘state-of-the-art lab’ to intervene and crack down on the rising criminal activities over the Darknet, also known as the underworld of the Internet. The state must prevent and investigate digital crimes, prevent misuse of data and encourage data security through legislation.

  • Data theft protection: Unlike the data protection regulations in place in the European Union and in the U.S., India still lacks a comprehensive legal framework to protect data privacy. Considering the manner in which public data are being stored and used by both the state and private entities, data of individuals is at high risk for being misused in Darknet. For efficient management of data in the age of digitisation, a data protection law is needed.
  • Right to privacy: The Supreme Court (SC) in Justice K.S Puttaswamy vs Union of India case, declared that the right to privacy is an inherent part of the fundamental right under Article 21 of the constitution. Thus, it is the duty of the state to safeguard individual’s privacy through legislation.
  • Rising cyber-crime: Public data leaks have been quite common in India from government websites enabling the download of Aadhaar numbers to electoral data rolls being downloaded in bulk, among others. Due to increased digitisation and increased digital complexities, data protection is needed for the hour. Recent rise of crimes like WhatsApp, Pegasus scam demands a data protection law in place.
  • Regulating companies: Large amounts of personal data have been collected by state agencies and private companies and their flow across national boundaries has been a cause for concern. There are many instances that the state and private agencies that are using the personal data are not transparent on the purpose for which the data is being used. To curtail the perils of unregulated and arbitrary use of personal data a legislation must be in place.
  • Digital India: With a billion population, India has the second highest internet user base in the world. India has 450 million internet users and is expected to increase to 730 million by 2020. With emphasis on digital India, the government must ensure the safety of citizen’s data.

Darknet and India

  • The Centre has directed all law enforcement agencies to have eye over foreign-based content providers of data and metadata and to make legislative changes to provide immunity for cyber hackers, which law enforcement agencies use to counter Dark web transactions.
  • In India, the Information Technology Act deals with cybercrime and comes under the Ministry of Electronics and Information Technology. There are only six sections in the law that deal with cybercrime.
  • Centre for Development of Advanced Computing is working with CSIR on developing a darknet telescope base cyber security monitoring and interference framework.  This will help law enforcement agencies track cyber criminals who are selling illegal products and services on such platforms and also track terrorism relate communications and activities.

Way Forward

Since the dark web serves as both a hotbed for illegal activity and a platform for users to anonymously voice their thoughts freely, there is demand for its continued existence. In the future, the dark web community will develop advanced tactics to evade detection by the authorities. To minimize the illegal activities on darknet following steps must be taken:-

  • Nodal agency: As cryptocurrency becomes more mainstream, it will increasingly be used to facilitate dark web transactions. To stop or minimize this a nodal agency must be set up so as to keep a check on crypto transactions used for nefarious activities.
  • Cybercrime units around the world must be kept updated with advancements in the darknet society thereby giving them enough power to handle and tackle any illegal activity across the darknet. There must be international cooperation to deal with the issue.
  • Kerala Police Department’s initiative, Cyberdome, a premier facility dedicated to prevent cybercrime and mitigate cybersecurity threats to the State’s critical information infrastructure, is a step in the right direction which other concerned authorities across the nation can learn from.
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