Indian Cyber Experts Say Dark Web and Cryptocurrencies Pose Serious Threat to National Security

Use of Cryptocurrency

Indian cyber experts say that the use of cryptocurrencies by radical groups in the dark web for terrorist activities and drug trafficking poses a serious threat to national security and a huge challenge to India's security agencies.

Cryptocurrency has become the most advanced method of terrorist financing, and when it is traded on dark networks such as TOR, Freenet, Zeronet and Perfect dark, security agencies are unable to track it.

Money launderers, cybercriminals and terrorists find cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Monero, Ripple and Zcash very convenient because of their anonymity and untraceability.

The dark web is a deep variable link in the Internet realm where one cannot find the identity of the user because the router browser remains completely anonymous to the user's identity. Web expert Pawan Duggal said it makes users anonymous to whomever they interact with because of end-to-end encryption.

In both cases, he added, anonymity poses a real challenge to India's law enforcement agencies, creating a unique "cybercrime economy" on the dark web that now increasingly offers a variety of cybercrimes and services.

Duggal further said that security agencies need to be trained to penetrate these online systems and track the source and purpose of funds in order to take preventive measures.

A senior official of the Counter Narcotics Bureau (NCB) said that the use of dark web platforms is not only limited to drug trafficking or drug dealing, but has recently been used by many terrorist organizations around the world.

The NCB has been constantly cracking down on drug traffickers who choose the dark web and is working with international agencies to control this threat.

The dark web also offers self-destructing mailboxes and proxy servers where people can use fake IDs. duggal further stated that this certainly makes proving an allegation difficult and requires amendments to the IT Act and the Evidence Act.

TOR software, Freenet, Zeronet, and Perfect dark are some of the popular dark web browsers, which can only be accessed through specialized software.

TOR is the most popular, with over two million users per day, and it uses the onion routing method, a layered technique that hides the user's identity by routing traffic through established layers.

Nevertheless, the Deep Web encrypts and hides identities, and cyber experts say law enforcement agencies are now able to infiltrate these transactions through social worker methods (posing as sellers or buyers on the Dark Web).

Counterterrorism expert Rituraj Mate said, "In most cases, cryptocurrencies are used in the drug trade and for money laundering, and terrorists don't use this virtual currency because agencies can track it."

He also said that once cryptocurrency is legalized in India, terrorist groups can use it. Once official permission is obtained, extremists could use someone's account to fund terrorist activities.

As far as the dark web is concerned, Mate also said that browsers like TOR are also easy to get a hold of and that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has mastered methods to infiltrate dark web organizations and gather information and evidence to prosecute cybercrime. He added that Interpol has also initiated training programs for law enforcement agencies around the world on combating dark web crimes.

Mate further added that Indian law enforcement agencies have established partnerships with international agencies such as the CIA, FBI and Interpol to exchange information on a regular basis, and Indian law enforcement agencies have the ability to track the identities of users on these dark networks.

The issue was discussed comprehensively with all stakeholders at a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Nov. 13, and the government is reportedly mulling a bill to regulate cryptocurrency trading in India in the winter session of parliament.

At the meeting, officials said Indian law enforcement agencies are very sophisticated in terms of technology and skills in infiltrating the dark web, and they have successfully tracked down many cases of drug dealing.

A senior official, who asked not to be named, said, "We have the capability to track and catch criminals on the dark web and have enough manpower to deal with the problem, but we need to increase our infrastructure such as highly configured servers and better coordination in sharing information with foreign law enforcement agencies."

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