How do we reduce and eliminate criminal activities facilitated by the Dark Web?
This was the question tackled by the TNO workshop held on 26 September, during the Cyber Security Week 2017 at the Hague Security Delta in the Netherlands. The workshop around the subject of policing the Dark Web for the EU Horizon 2020 funded MEDI@4SEC project was organized by TNO.
The goal for the day was to share best practices across Europe and to sketch-out the future of Dark Web policing. The workshop provided:
- Presentations by law enforcement representatives about their last developments in successful policing initiatives, such as the take down of AlphaBay and Hansa or investigations from narcotics and counter-terrorism teams.
- Demonstrations of tools developed by EU projects (e.g., BitCrime) and businesses (e.g., Chainalysis’ blockchain analytics) were also demonstrated.
- Intense and lively discussions by participants considering how practice can be informed to improve everyday practice in policing the dark web.
CHALLENGES AND CONDITIONS FOR POLICING THE DARK WEB
The Dark Web continuously offers new chances to criminals. As one participant stated,
“There is a growing concern on the opportunities the Dark Web creates for financing terrorism, and on the cheap, asymmetric and decentralized approach that cyber attackers adopt”.
Additionally, dark markets create a transnational and highly dynamic context, where criminals can innovate very fast. This requires an increased coordination at the international level.
“A global combating strategy is tough to achieve, therefore we have to focus on concrete initiatives” says Markus Walter, European Commission, “not only at the European level; many coordinated local efforts exist and should be strengthened”.
A lot of good work is already in place: to grow in efficiency and limit duplications and costs, we should increase the exchange of information and collaboration. Examples are centralized dark web trainings, a common (bitcoins) database and shared analytics tools for investigators.
Homogeneity becomes a key-word at the legal and regulatory level as well: we should create a common international legal framework, comprising Internet as well as cryptocurrency regulations, and demand mandatory risk assessments for service providers and cyber-relevant companies.
Finally, disrupting the dark markets requires continuous innovation at the research level.
“We do not have enough knowledge inhouse, so we experiment collaborations with those who do” says Jaap van Oss, Dutch High Tech Crime Unit. Universities, research organisations and SMEs should play an increasing role and be stimulated to conduct R&D on the still existing gaps. We need to keep researching automatic data investigation tools, digital forensics methods, big data solutions, and tactics for countering the voices on the Dark Web.
A WAY FORWARD
Despite the long list of needed actions, the day closes with notes of optimism.
Jaap van Oss: “operation Bayonet shows how we evolved in the last years; the capability to internationally cooperate and succeed is now concrete.“
And Francesca Bosco, UNICRI, concludes: “I went from a feeling of ‘the sky is falling’, to an optimistic view. Today we discussed several innovations and a common goal for overarching international cooperation. The gaps can be filled”.
Follow us and join the conversation
The results of the workshop will be soon published on the project website media4sec.eu. To receive details sign up to the project mailing list, follow us on Twitter (@media4sec) and join our LinkedIn Group (www.linkedin.com/groups/12000103). A copy of presentations given during the day are available upon request from firstname.lastname@example.org. For more information on TNO’s Dark Web Solutions program, you can register yourselves for news on dws.pm.
MEDI@4SEC is a co-ordination and support action supported under the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Research Framework. It began on 1st July 2016 and will run for 30 months. It focuses upon enhancing our understanding of the opportunities, challenges and ethical consideration of social media use for public security. MEDI@4SEC is informed by research but grounded in the experiences of real life practitioners. It is co-ordinated by the University of Warwick with contributions from 10 partner organisations.
TNO (Nederlandse Organisatie voor toegepast-natuurwetenschappelijk Onderzoek TNO) is an independent Dutch research organisation and one of largest in Europe. Based on its expertise and research in technological, policy, business and social innovation, TNO connects people and knowledge in order to create innovations which strengthen the competitive position of companies and enhance societal welfare. For the last 5 years they have been conducting research to effective Dark Web interventions and its required methodologies. TNOs Dark Web Solutions program drwas on expertise from a range of disciplines (including criminology, behavioural science cybersecurity, data science, text mining and image analytics) and works towards concrete solutions. These solutions are contributing to the outcomes of European Union Horizon 2020 projects including ASGARD, MEDI@4SEC and TITANIUM.