Combating the Illicit Goods Trade on the Dark Web

GMA 400 - Senior Seminar Research

The development of the World Wide Web has made the world more interconnected than ever before. This technology has brought with it many new innovations, including online shopping and mail delivered electronically. Another development stemming from this new interconnectedness was the concept of secure, anonymous communication. This concept was made a reality with the development of the The Onion Router (TOR). TOR was originally developed to allow for secure and anonymous government communication. However, TOR’s release to the public afforded users with malicious intent the ability to operate online anonymously. While the TOR browser can be used for good things, it is often associated with the Dark Web. First surfacing in 2011, the Dark Web is a culmination of illicit websites, unable to be located on indexed internet search engines. The first of these Dark Web sites was launched in 2011. Named the Silk Road, this Dark Web site was the first to offer an Amazon like user experience for illicit substances. Coupled with the anonymity TOR offered, users of the Silk Road were able to purchase drugs, weapons and illegal services completely anonymously. The Silk Road was shut down by law enforcement on 2013. Since then, there has been a multiplicity of marketplaces to appear on the Dark Web. Due to the complex nature of TOR, law enforcement has been struggling to effectively police the Dark Web. In order to properly address this issue, law enforcement must develop a multifaceted strategy aimed at reducing this online illicit trade.