cyber crime dark web

UK government to launch offensive against ‘dark web’ criminals

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The UK is to launch a crackdown on the ‘dark web’ under new plans set to be announced by home secretary Amber Rudd.

At the CyberUK security conference in Manchester, Rudd is expected to announce a £9m boost towards efforts to tackle offenders who use the online space to trade in guns, drugs and child abuse images.

The dark web is a way of accessing the internet through specifically designed browsers - most commonly the Tor browser - which allows users to obscure their IP address and location.

In this way it makes it difficult for authorities to track down the location and identity of users who purchase illicit good and services.

This anonymity has attracted criminals seeking to avoid detection by law enforcement agencies.

In her speech, Rudd will describe the dark web as a “dark and dangerous place where anonymity emboldens people to break the law in the most horrifying of ways” and a “platform of dangerous crimes and horrific abuse”.

A “sickening shopping list of services and products are available”, the Cabinet minister will warn.

She is launching the £9m fund in order to “enhance the UK’s specialist law enforcement response”.

“They will use this money to help combat the criminals who continually exploit the anonymity of the dark web,” she will say.

The details of the measures planned as part of the cash injection are not being released for operational reasons.

In addition, £5m has been earmarked for dedicated cyber-crime units so that online offenders can be pursued at a regional and local level.

According to the Home Office, only 30 per cent of local police forces currently have a cyber capability that reaches the minimum standard.

The funding is part of £50m allocated to ensure the criminal justice system is equipped to investigate and prosecute illegal activity perpetrated in, or facilitated by, cyberspace.

Rudd will say: “[The £50m of funding] will mean that cyber-crimes are investigated thoroughly and police can support local businesses and local victims, providing the advice and care they need.

“Whilst criminals plot and hide behind their screens, their actions have real-life consequences for their victims.

“My own father was the victim of fraud and I know from personal experience the importance of supporting those who have been victimised through no fault of their own.”

Last year, Rudd was drawn into an exchange with an internet hoaxer who goaded her into an email conversation by posing as one of Theresa May’s advisers. 

Joseph Carson, chief security scientist at cyber-security firm Thycotic, was sceptical about Rudd’s announcement.

“Amber Rudd cracking down on dark web appears to be a political motive because it makes dark web actually sound like a real location where cybercriminals hang out but just don’t use their real names,” he said.

“However, it does have some positive news about cracking down on real criminals who use dark web to hide their tracks and criminal activities; this is definitely something we all want to see.

“The real shock is that the person responsible for security is far from the reality of cybercrime, and £9m to clean up the dark web is not even going to make a dent.

“You will have a better chance at cleaning the entire ocean from garbage than cleaning the dark web. This money would be better spent on educating the future generation on identifying cybercrime, rather than trying to clean something which is almost impossible.

“The dark web is not a place or location on the internet, it is the internet; just not searchable from a browser or search engine.  It is like a library but most of the books do not have an index card to tell you where the location of the book is on the shelf, you either need to know or someone has to tell you how to get to it. 

“Yes, any action on prosecuting criminals who use the internet for malicious crimes is a win for society. However, before going after the internet you first need to understand how it actually works.”

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