Law Enforcement and the Deep Web: Willing, but Underfunded
As everyone knows by now, there have been some recent attacks in Germany that have people worried about their security. One question that comes up is this: how did the attackers obtain their weapons?
It shouldn’t be a surprise that the attacker was able to buy a weapon online. Deep Web sites are not particularly difficult to find or access if the user is sufficiently determined to do so. Of course, some of the advertisements are fraudulent–but with enough patience, someone in these markets (whether it be a criminal or a terrorist) can obtain the illegal goods he wants.
The importance of going after these sites is obvious. So one may ask: why don’t the police do it? It’s not for a lack of trying, but the reality is that the police don’t have the resources to do so. People imagine that the police have unlimited resources to catch criminals–that may be true in some cases, but not cybercrime.
Many police departments don’t have the in-house expertise or resources to police the Deep Web as well as it is meant to be policed. This is despite how more and more illegal online activity goes on, making this kind of ability more important in solving crimes. The police want to police the Deep Web, but around the globe cybercrime units do not have the resources they need.
Some politicians would like to ban the Deep Web entirely, or keep it under tight surveillance. Saying so is short-term populism, and not realistic. The Deep Web is not inherently evil. It isn’t. Anonymity has its place online. Certainly, for dissidents living under dictatorial regimes, it’s very useful. There’s nothing inherently good or bad about the Deep Web – it’s a tool, like any other.
Law enforcement is aware of the importance of the Deep Web and they are working to plug this gap in their capabilities. However, the private sector is still ahead of the game. Both researchers and the police will benefit by working together in this area.
Trend Micro works with law enforcement agencies from all over the world to help monitor the Deep Web. This includes several State Offices of Criminal Investigation and the Federal Office of Criminal Investigation, some of which are investigating these recent incidents. We are committed to continue to help law enforcement agencies everywhere build up their capacity to investigate online activities just as easily as they can do offline ones. We have published multiple papers discussing the results of our research efforts into these unseen corners of the Internet