11 November 2014

Last week signalled a step in the right direction for the fight against cybercrime, as over 400 websites operating in the so-called dark net were seized and shut down. If you’re unfamiliar with this term, it’s basically a way of describing the part of the net that can’t be traced by most search engines.

web_icebergThe Tor network, which the sites operated on, is essentially an anonymised network where data is sent, not from A to B, but around the houses to various connection points; it’s also heavily encrypted along the way. As you can imagine, this makes users’ activity very difficult to trace. It might be a benefit for users in countries where internet use is restricted as a means of censorship; however, it also attracts criminals and predators seeking out illegal imagery.

Until now, these anonymous users have seen themselves as invisible and unstoppable, but the closure of hundreds of websites selling illegal items is bound to throw a spanner in the works, sending out a clear message. It also shows the benefits of organisations from different countries working together to tackle cybercrime. I’ve said it before, but there are some incredibly smart people out there and by taking a collaborative approach, we stand a better chance of catching them out.

Does this mean we’ve won the battle against online criminal activity? Sadly, we’re still far from it as some of the closed sites will likely reopen elsewhere, but we are certainly moving in the right direction.

Personally, I believe the internet has been unpoliced for too long, and whilst I understand some of the less sinister uses of the Tor network, the criminal activities that go with it are absolutely unacceptable. With any great technological innovation, no matter how positive, there will always be individuals eager to abuse it and, as long as that’s the case, we need to work even harder to drive those people out of the shadows.

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