Severe terror attacks on European countries recently have grabbed headlines and have been a major headache on some of these countries. Terrorists launching an attack from Paris to Manchester and several other cities have led to the loss of so much life. Countries that are not yet under attacked are engaging in proactive measures against any potential attack. The Gardaí Police force of Ireland, therefore, launched an official investigation into the Darknet.
The investigation into the Darknet marketplace was as a result of the recent terror attack in London, and according to reports, the Gardaí was informed by the Met police that they are investigating whether the London attackers smuggled weapons from a Darkweb market.
The number of Darknet users in Europe is very high, and most of the firearm traffickers have been arrested as well. Authorities leave no stone unturned when persecuting criminals who attempt to smuggle ammunitions from the Darknet market. With respect to this, a 14-year-old boy was charged in April this year for purchasing guns on a Darknet marketplace.
The urgent need to look into the smuggling weapons on the Darknet marketplace is clear in the 2013-2017 policy cycle of the Europol as one of their nine IMPACT priorities is illicit firearms trafficking.
Rachid Redouane, the second London attacker lived in Dublin as a Chef and any plot he made is likely to have been done during his stay in the Ireland. The investigation by the Met police will, therefore, reveal whether Rachid smuggled his weapons from the any of the Darknet markets.
For an effective investigation on any darknet marketplace, a scanner has been introduced “to target and confront shadow economy activity, including fiscal fraud, fuel fraud, cash and tobacco smuggling, and drug trafficking, while at the same time facilitating the free flow of legitimate trade” according to their revenue a report.
The investigation has revealed that terrorists have been on the various Darknet marketplaces since 1990. The terror attack in Paris 2015 triggered authorities to take down the websites associated with ISIS. Terrorist afterwards resorted to the Darknet marketplace as their platform to smuggle weapons and to also communicate on these platforms.
In a report written by Beatrice Berton on the use of Darknet markets by terrorists, she wrote: “ISIL’s activities on the Surface Web are now being monitored closely, and the decision by a number of governments to take down or filter extremist content has forced the jihadists to look for new online safe havens.”
Weapons are usually split into component parts and are delivered by mail. The head of the Arms Transfers and Small Arms project at Group for Research and Information on Peace and Security in Brussels said to reporters that from the darknet market vendors, “the guns moved from the Balkans to Western Europe and other parts of Europe in small and medium shipments, so that makes it very difficult to monitor and investigate and protect against.” He added that “They can move across criminal networks within Europe. First to Belgium and other parts and then to someone who is linked to criminal or terrorist networks.”
Exposing the Darknet marketplace as a platform of terrorism enhancement is a problem on its own. The increased use of the platform by terrorists is a challenge to governments, counter-terrorism agencies, police and all other authorities who have the interest to fight against terrorism.
What comes to mind when referring to Darknet marketplace in relations to terrorism is weapons smuggling, but it goes beyond that in the role it plays in terrorism? Terrorists can use these markets for money transfer and fundraising by the aid of bitcoin which is a digital currency on most of these websites.
Ireland has already taken measures to prevent people from taking advantage of the various Darknet markets to smuggle guns. Over 20 people who are believed to be a threat have been investigated by the Gardaí Special Detective Unit.
Darknet marketplace has been a source of weapon smuggling not only for terrorists but also for individuals with their own agenda. The head of UNSA police union, Philippe Capon said to reporters that the Darknet price for AK47 ranges from 1,000 Euros to 1,500 Euros.
In Ireland, some selected cities have been targeted for the investigation. These are Wexford, Galway Mayo and the south of Dublin.
Proving the Darknet to be responsible for the recent rise of terror attack means nothing without an equal investigation of proactive measures to curtail its operation.
In 2015, a report was released in relation to the impact of Darknet market on the cyber security. According to the report, “in order to formulate comprehensive strategies and policies for governing the Internet, it is important to consider insights on its farthest reaches—the Deep Web and, more importantly, the Dark Web.”
A method to fight against this was revealed by the American Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency. They saw the MEMEX as an answer to the fight against Darknet marketplaces being used by terrorists. The MEMEX is software that catalogues the Darkweb markets very well. It was invented to monitor human trafficking that occurs on the Darknet marketplace. However, it can help to monitor the smuggling of weapons on the various Darknet markets as well.
The Darknet as an online black market favors weapon smuggling, and it is likely that authorities will fight against it to indirectly deal with terrorist attacks.