The recent technological advancements including the ever evolving internet, e-commerce mobile apps, innovative information technologies, social media and big-data predictive analytics have totally transformed the way we live our lives, whether at work or at home. We now communicate with each other via texting; we shop, date and bank online and we can work remotely from the comfort of our homes. Even though this indulgence can have many prominent positive influences, there exists some undesirable consequences secondary to the use of technological innovations that are essential to consider especially when crime prevention and control is concerned.
More than 100 years ago, two inventions, that are presently taken for granted; the telephone and the automobile, markedly improved man’s quality of life, yet they also introduced the world to new crimes. The advent of telephony opened the door for new criminal opportunities, many of which are still existent nowadays, such as telemarketing fraud, credit card data phishing and others. Moreover, automobiles yielded new types of crimes including auto-theft and interstate smuggling of illegal merchandise and also offered new opportunities to well known crimes such as bank robbery, abduction, housebreaking and vandalism.
The early 90s of the previous century witnessed another groundbreaking innovation which also totally transformed our lives; the internet. According to a paper published by Loretta Stalans and Mary Finn in 2016, the world wide web, mobile applications and information technologies are now inseparable parts of the social structures of finance, education, business and health in a large number of the world’s countries. In 2016, more than 3 billion people, which represents approximately 40% of the world’s population, have used the internet in a way or another according to Internet Live Stats. More than 80% of households in USA, Canada, Germany, the United Kingdom and France have internet access. More than 50% of population in the Middle East and South America; 40% of population in Asia and 25% of African population accessed the internet at least once during November, 2015.
Accordingly, it shouldn’t be a surprise to know that the internet has provided a myriad of criminal opportunities. Moreover, the deep web, including the Darknet and other dark nets, has helped criminals even more via offering them simple means to cover their tracks and remain anonymous. The following represents the types of criminal activities found on the Darknet today:
Drugs on the Darknet:
Silk Road was the first big drug market on the deep web. It was founded by Ross Ulbricht who ran the site for 3 years before being tracked down and arrested. There were around 950,000 accounts on the site and around 600,000 messages were exchanged monthly between buyers and sellers. After the shutdown of Silk Road by the FBI and Europol in 2014, several other markets emerged on the darknet including agora, alphabay, hansa market, valhalla and others. By far, selling drugs is the most commonly committed cyber-crime on the deep web today.
Pornography (+/- Child Pornography), the Sex Trade and Human Trafficking on the Darknet:
Recent studies have shown that 17% of all Tor websites are adult sites that provide anonymous access to a wide range of pornography material and occasionally, human trafficking. As per the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, there were more than 2.5 million victims of human trafficking all across the world in 2014 and both the surface web and the darknet were used to conduct this illegal business. However, there is no enough data to accurately predict the magnitude of the problem and that’s why the Defense Advanced Research Project Agency’s (DARPA) Memex program is presently building and testing novel darknet search tools that are capable of tracking and documenting various human trafficking activities on the darknet.
Weapons on the Darknet:
According to a recent report, there are currently 6 sites on the darknet that sell and ship guns to customers in the USA including Alpha Bay, Executive Outcomes, Crypto Market, BMG, The Armory and Nucleus. A recent report showed that weapons’ sales are not so popular on the darknet, accounting for around 3% of all darknet trades that occurred between 2013 and 2015.
Other types of crimes on the darknet:
The darknet also offers a wide range of other illegal items and services including counterfeit currencies, counterfeit legal documents, hacking software, malware, stolen credit cards.