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Actors and Relevant Facts on the Dark Web

Deep Web and Dark Web

The concepts of Deep Web and dark web, which has already been discussed in previous articles on this blog, and which are a part of the Internet that is not indexed by the usual search engines.

In the case of the Deep Web, it refers to all content of any type that, in order to access it, require credentials, or credentials plus a subscription or directly are content only available to those familiar with the access method, which does not have to be public. To clarify, these would be content that is only accessible with a credential, such as any web mail, or content that is perishable, such as the result of a request for a service offer, etc.

The Dark Web, and the protagonist of this article, furthermore, requires certain specialized software to access it, although we will not go into that detail here. We will leave it for the students who take the EIP master's degree.

The Dark Web is an anonymous and, most importantly, unregulated environment. For this reason it attracts a variety of actors with different intentions and activities. We could say that The DarkWeb is a digital reflection of what we call the real world the jungle when we refer to something that has neither law nor order..

Dark Web Cybersecurity

Some of the most common actors involved in the Dark Web are:

Anonymous users: Those individuals who use the Dark Web to access content or services anonymously, often to protect their privacy or avoid censorship, may or may not have good intentions.

Activists and opponents: The Dark Web can also be used by activist and opposition groups to share and disseminate sensitive information without being detected. For example, distribution of documents, revelations of corruption or anonymous complaints.

Sellers and buyers of illegal goods: While on the Dark Web, you can find markets where illegal products and services are sold, such as drugs, firearms, stolen data, credentials, fake credit cards, etc., sellers and buyers communicate and carry out transactions using cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin to preserve their anonymity. 

Hackers: The Dark Web is a place where hackers share and sell hacking tools, exploits, malware, and stolen data. They also offer their services to carry out illegal activities such as denial of service (DDoS) attacks or account hacking.

Illegal activities: Unfortunately, the Dark Web also hosts illegal content, such as child pornography, terrorist and criminal activities, and other material widely condemned and prosecuted by authorities, such as cyberattacks, contract killings, and extortion.

As a consequence of the existence of some of the actors described above, logically there are their antagonists, that is, those people who monitor and pursue the consequences of the acts carried out by the actors who take advantage of the characteristics of the Deep Web. Dark Web research involves the participation of multiple entities and organizations charged with investigating ongoing activities and enforcing the law both domestically and internationally. These are:

Security Forces and Corps

Police and law enforcement agencies of different countries.

In Spain the BCIT, framed in the Technological Research Unit, dependent on the General Directorate of the Police and the Telematic Crimes Group of the Central Operational Unit of the Civil Guard for the investigation and monitoring of cybercrime in Spain and for international collaboration with other agencies .

Logically, other states have their agencies or police forces, such as the FBI in the United States. These agencies have specialized cybercrime divisions and incident response teams that are dedicated to investigating and pursuing online criminal activities, including those taking place on the Dark Web.

Organizations such as Interpol and Europol, with their specialized department EC3 (European Cybercrime Center) play a key role in international collaboration and coordination of efforts to investigate criminal activities on the Dark Web. These organizations facilitate information sharing and cooperation between law enforcement agencies of different countries.

Europol Dark Web

Cyber security teams

In addition to law enforcement agencies, there are also cybersecurity teams in both the public and private sectors that investigate the Dark Web. These teams may be part of government agencies, intelligence organizations, security companies, or cyber incident response teams. Its function is to monitor and analyze the Dark Web for criminal activities, vulnerabilities and threats. They can be hired by private companies to look after their business interests.

Importantly, research on the Dark Web is challenging due to its anonymous and clandestine nature. It requires a combination of technical tools, specialized knowledge and international collaboration to conduct successful research in this environment.

DarkWeb Operations

Below are some of the most notable operations carried out by police internationally:

Operation Onymous (2014): This operation coordinated by law enforcement agencies from several countries, including the United States and Europe, aimed to dismantle several Dark Web markets, including Silk Road 2.0, which was a market known for the sale of drugs and other illegal goods. .

Operation AlphaBay (2017): It was one of the largest and most popular markets on the Dark Web, used for the sale of drugs, weapons and other illegal goods. The operation carried out by the international police resulted in the closure of AlphaBay and the arrest of its creator and administrator, Alexandre Cazes.

Operation Bayonet (2017): This operation was carried out by law enforcement agencies from several countries, including the United States, Germany and the Netherlands. It focused on the identification and arrest of individuals involved in the distribution and use of a Dark Web child pornography platform called Playpen.

Operation SaboTor (2019): Coordinated by Europol, this operation focused on dismantling several Dark Web markets, including Wall Street Market and Valhalla, which were known for the sale of drugs, stolen data and hacking services.

Operation DisrupTor (2020): Led by the FBI and Europol, this operation focused on the dismantling of Dark Web markets dedicated to the sale of drugs, especially opioids. Numerous arrests and the seizure of large quantities of drugs and cryptocurrencies were made.

Operation SpecTor (2023) May: coordinated by Europol with 9 member states against the "Monopoly Market" site, in this recent operation almost 300 people have been arrested for buying or selling drugs on the DarkWeb, in addition more than 50 million euros, weapons and 100 kilos have been seized of different illegal substances.

Spector Dark Web

As for national level, below are some operations carried out by the police in Spain to combat illegal activities on the Dark Web:

Operation Waterfall (2014): The Spanish National Police participated in this international operation aimed at dismantling the illegal file-sharing website called “Megaupload”. Although Megaupload did not operate exclusively on the Dark Web, this operation had a major impact in the fight against online piracy.

Operation Cause Galicia (2017): The Spanish Civil Guard led this operation against an international child pornography network on the Dark Web. Searches and arrests were carried out in different parts of Spain, and several individuals involved in the production and distribution of this type of illegal material were identified.

Operation Creeper (2017): The National Police and the Civil Guard participated in this operation, which aimed to dismantle a network that sold synthetic drugs through the Dark Web. Arrests were made and significant quantities of drugs and cash seized.

Operation Darkness (2019): This operation, led by the Civil Guard, focused on the dismantling of a network that distributed child pornography through the Dark Web. Multiple searches were conducted and several individuals involved in this criminal activity were arrested.

Operation Storm (2020): The Spanish Civil Guard participated in this international operation against a drug trafficking network on the Dark Web. Arrests were made and narcotic substances, weapons and cryptocurrencies used in illegal transactions were seized.

These actions involve a continuous and constantly evolving effort, and require close cooperation between agencies in different countries to be successful in the fight against illegal activities on the Dark Web.

If you are interested in security, please note our Professional Master in Cybersecurity Management, Ethical Hacking and Offensive Security.

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