Leveraging the dark web is critical for law enforcement investigations. Learn the basics of what the dark web's all about and how to safely navigate it.

Let’s first make sure that we are on the same page when it comes to understanding the different layers of the internet.

  • The open web is really anything that is readily available and regularly indexed by mainstream search engines, like Google.
  • Then there’s the deep web, where information is not indexed, but you can still access the content that you need if you have an account or are paying a subscription fee. Certain government reports, directories, and even commercial services, like Netflix, are considered part of the deep web.
  • And then there’s the dark web — a completely separate section of the internet that was originally created by the U.S. government as an anonymous communication platform, and then opened to the public in 2004.

It’s the anonymity behind it that’s making the dark web such a hotspot for criminal activity. When you access the dark web, you first hit an entry node, which is just for getting you onto the server. Then you advance to a middle node, which is used for additional security, and only then you finally hit an exit node, which is delivering you to that actual dark website. All this jumping around to multiple locations, bouncing between thousands of dark web servers all over the world, is what makes it so hard to track someone on the dark web.

Learn how criminals operate by listening in on dark web forums

There’s a lot of activity taking place on the dark web, and much of it is going to be of interest to an investigator. There's trafficking of illicit goods and services, cybercrime, cryptocurrency, money laundering, child exploitation, and much more.

But where I see the most value for law enforcement is in monitoring the dark web communications channels. Every major marketplace has its own forum, where people go to talk about… well, anything, including crimes that they are about to commit and how they plan to go about it. So, as a law enforcement agent, you can learn a great deal about how criminals operate by just going to these forums and listening in, as criminals talk freely about their activities and plans because they feel protected by the dark web’s vastness and obscurity.

CASE STUDY“I find [Silo] to be very beneficial if you need to take screenshots to present to a prosecutor.”

Stay safe – the fundamentals of investigations don’t change

The same principles that you use by investigating someone on the open web apply to dark web research. Following up on leads, evaluating information, collecting evidence, and combining different data sets – all of it is still relevant, and by having access to the dark web, you have a very rich new source that could yield a lot of useful intelligence.

But diving into the gloomy depths of the dark web has its dangers. Despite its secrecy and anonymity, the dark web has a way of tracking someone down. Just like on the open web, sophisticated adversaries can use it to launch counter-surveillance or booby-trap their sites with malware.

There are reports that criminal organizations are hiring their own analysts to investigate who's looking into them. So, law enforcement agents who traverse the dark web have to be extra careful and take measures to protect themselves, their missions, and their organizations.

Manage your attribution

Silo for Dark Web Research allows you to access the dark web via the cloud, completely isolating all your browsing activity from your local machine and the network. Even if you run into some type of malicious code, it’s not going to infect your devices, while you still have access to sites.

With shared storage and built-in audit capabilities, Silo allows law enforcement agents to safely collect evidence on the dark web, share them with their colleagues, and preserve the chain of custody. With Silo’s managed attribution, investigators can customize their location, time zone, IP address or language, to disguise their mission and throw counterintelligence efforts off their scent.

At Authentic8, we often talk about moving at the speed of criminals. With cloud-based browsing, managed attribution, automated collection capabilities and safe dark web access, Silo helps you do even more — you can stay one step ahead of the criminals.

To learn more about Authentic8’s solution for online law enforcement investigation, Silo for Research, request a demo here.

About the Author

A8 Team
A8 Team
Contribution Team U.S.A.

Authentic8 Team is a group of cybersecurity enthusiasts, investigation sleuths, top-notch engineers, news junkies, policy wonks and all-around fervent writers hell-bent on bringing you the best darn blog in the industry. 

Related Resources

On-Demand Webinar
On-Demand Webinar

Introduction to the dark web: what's hiding in the dark

An introductory webinar on the basics of the dark web, and why it could be a useful asset for investigators

On-Demand Webinar
On-Demand Webinar

Naked & exposed: stop investigating online without managed attribution

Managed attribution is essential to keeping online investigations secure and anonymous

On-Demand Webinar
On-Demand Webinar

Secure, anonymous online intelligence gathering for law enforcement

Learn the dangers of using a traditional web browser for law enforcement investigations and how Silo for Research can help