ED Arrests Dark Web Drug Vendor Running Global Trafficking Network

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ED Arrests Dark Web Drug Vendor Running Global Trafficking Network Blog Image

What’s in today’s article?

  • Why in News?
  • What is Dark Web?
  • How it operates?
  • The dark web vs. the deep web
  • What is the use of Dark Web?
  • Legality of accessing the dark web in India
  • What are the regulatory Challenges in regulating dark web?
  • Way forward

Why in News?

The Enforcement Directorate (ED) has arrested a resident of Uttarakhand for allegedly operating an international drug trafficking group. He has been booked under the Prevention of Money Laundering Act.

The accused operated a global dark web enterprise to send fentanyl and other deadly and dangerous drugs to communities across America – in all 50 States — as well as Canada, Europe, and the Caribbean.

What is Dark Web?

  • Dark Net, also referred to as dark web or darknet, is a maze of secret websites which can be accessed only through encrypted channels.
    • In other words, it is the hidden collective of internet sites only accessible by a specialized web browser.
  • It is used for keeping internet activity anonymous and private, which can be helpful in both legal and illegal applications.

How it operates?

  • The dark web operates in secrecy using The Onion Router (ToR).
    • Tor is free and open-source software for enabling anonymous communication.
    • It is an Internet based system to prevent eavesdropping and traffic analysis attacks.
  • Experts say darknet is very tough to penetrate owing to its end-to-end encryption. 
    • The access to darknet is possible only through specialized browsers like Tor, Freenet, I2P and Tails to surf the darknet anonymously. 
  • The privacy-centric browser like Tor routes the web page requests through proxy servers thus making your IP address untraceable.

The dark web vs. the deep web

  • Both the dark and deep web share one thing in common: Neither can be found in search engine results.
  • The difference between them primarily lies in how their content is accessed.
    • Deep web pages can be accessed by anyone with a standard web browser who knows the URL.
    • Dark web pages, in contrast, require special software with the correct decryption key, as well as access rights and knowledge of where to find the content.

What is the use of Dark Web?

  • Nowadays, darknet has become a hidden platform meant for the sale and purchase of much of the contraband items like 
    • drugs, arms, pornographic content and other illegal activities.
  • Due to its ability to provide an anonymous cover, the platform has become a safe haven for criminals dealing in every kind of illegal activity.
  • The matter gets complicated with the evolution of cryptocurrencies like bitcoin.
  • It is also used by people who require privacy for entirely legal reasons.
    • E.g., the exchange of proprietary business information or communication by political activists.
    • Darknet helps to protect the right to freedom of information and online privacy of individuals and is therefore often used by journalists and other activists.
  • One ethical use for the dark web is for law enforcement and threat intelligence agencies. 
  • These types of professionals may search the dark web for signs of cybersecurity or data breaches, illegal activity, scams or other emerging threats.

Legality of accessing the dark web in India

  • Accessing the dark web is legal in India. The Indian government does not recognize it as an illegal activity.
  • However, this doesn’t mean one is free to do whatever he/she wants.
  • Various activities like child pornography, buying guns, pistols, rifles, drugs, etc. are considered to be illegal.
  • Hence, the dark web is not illegal. It is the activity or the intent of a person that is taken into account while using the dark web.

What are the regulatory Challenges in regulating dark web?

  • The biggest challenge with respect to regulation of the dark web is its encryption technique and anonymity.
  • Apart from the strong encryption techniques, most financial transactions on the dark web are performed in cryptocurrencies which provide further anonymity.
  • The trans-border nature of the dark web further complicates the matter.
  • Ensuring right to freedom of information and online privacy while eliminating while eliminating the illegal activities thriving on dark web is a challenge.

Way forward

  • Implement such a system where freely available VPNs are banned.
    • For this, the government should create an authority under the Information Technology Act, 2000.
    • The government may create a mandatory charge for VPN registration.
  • Develop close cooperation between public and private organisations
    • It will help in dealing with the new and emerging technological challenges of the dark web, by providing solutions such as new encrypting tools, etc.
  • Foster international cooperation in the form of multilateral exchanges
    • It will help in dealing with the challenges of the trans-border nature of the dark web.
  • Adopt China Model
    • Many security experts argue that it is high time that India adopted the ‘China model’, wherein the great firewall of China, blocks Tor traffic. 
    • On similar lines, The Incredible Firewall of India will affect a body-blow to flourishing darknet crime.

Q.1. What is The Onion Router (ToR)?

The Onion Router (Tor) is a free, open-source network and web browser that allows users to anonymously browse the internet. Tor uses a layered onion routing technique to protect users' digital data and communications by encrypting traffic and randomly bouncing it through a network of relays.

Q.2. What is the power of ED?

The ED has special powers for confiscating property under the PMLA Act. In 2022, the Supreme Court, in its rulings, upheld the powers of the ED under the PMLA, emphasizing its crucial role in preventing money laundering.

Source: ED arrests dark web drug ‘vendor’ who ran international syndicate | IDSA | Times of India | Indian Express