As criminal activity proliferates across the unseen recesses of the Internet, the criminal landscape is becoming more fragmented and difficult to pin down, according to a new paper from the Global Commission on Internet Governance released this weekend.

"The Impact of the Dark Web on Internet Governance and Cyber Security," written by former Secretary of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and Synergia Foundation President Tobby Simon, analyzes the unknown areas of the deep and dark web — areas that are not available through search engines or the usual means of accessing sites online.

Download: Impact of the Dark Web on Internet Governance and Cyber Security

As the Global Commission looks to build a standard governance model for the World Wide Web, Chertoff and Simon argue the importance of understanding "its farthest reaches — the deep web and, more importantly, the dark web."

While "anonymous communications have an important place in our political and social discourse," according to the authors, the dark web provides challenges for criminal law enforcement, as well as national security.

"The dark web and terrorists seem to complement each other," they wrote. "The latter need an anonymous network that is readily available yet generally inaccessible."

The dark web has been used to spread propaganda, recruit soldiers and organize terrorist groups, though the full extent of these activities is unknown.

"Providing evidence showing that the dark web has turned into a major platform for global terrorism and criminal activities is crucial in order for the necessary tools to be developed for monitoring all parts of the Internet," Chertoff and Simon said.

The authors offered six suggestions for monitoring the dark web:

  • Mapping the hidden services directory by deploying nodes in the distributed hash table (DHT);
  • Customer data monitoring by looking for connections to non-standard domains;
  • Social site monitoring to spot message exchanges containing new dark web domains;
  • Hidden service monitoring of new sites for ongoing or later analysis;
  • Semantic analysis to track future illegal activities and malicious actors; and
  • Marketplace profiling to gather information about sellers, users and the kinds of good exchanged.

Aaron Boyd is an awarding-winning journalist currently serving as editor of Federal Times — a Washington, D.C. institution covering federal workforce and contracting for more than 50 years — and Fifth Domain — a news and information hub focused on cybersecurity and cyberwar from a civilian, military and international perspective.

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