Federal Law Enforcement Agencies Continue Their Efforts to Penetrate Criminal Conspiracies on the DarkNet

While most people surf the Clear Web, others operate in the shadows on the DarkNet. This portion of the internet is part of the Deep Web—a vast amount of web content that is generally not indexed by traditional search engines.

Although some users of the DarkNet just seek to avoid detection to protect their privacy, the anonymity of this portion of the internet draws criminal conspirators who traffic in everything from child pornography to guns to drugs and poisons.

In particular, DarkNet users favor Tor, also known as the Onion Router—a network designed to make it nearly impossible to physically located computers that host or access websites on this network.

A number of US federal law enforcement organizations have been active in the international action known as Operation Hyperion—a coalition that has had great success at disrupting illicit marketplaces on the DarkNet.

One of the most high profile successes was dismantling Silk Road 2.0 in 2014. This notorious site trafficked in illegal drugs using the virtual currency bitcoin. Successes such as this enable investigators to create more sophisticated tools to delve even deeper into criminal activity on the DarkNet.

The Five Eyes Law Enforcement Group (FELEG) implemented Operation Hyperion. This consortium of international law enforcement agencies from the US, the UK, New Zealand, Canada, and Australia shares criminal intelligence to combat crime that takes place across national boundaries.

Its Cyber Crime Working Group focuses on IDing the perpetrators who operate key criminal services in the underground marketplace of the DarkNet.

The ability to rapidly share information across international boundaries has been pivotal in not only disrupting criminal enterprises, but rescuing victims. For instance, the distribution of a picture of a young child being sexually abused in the US made it to the Netherlands.

Agents identified the teddy bear on the boy’s t-shirt as being typically Dutch. Investigators were able to identify the store in the Netherlands that had only sold a small quantity of the t-shirts. From that, they identified and rescued the boy.

Such stunning successes are a testament to the benefits of international cooperation to track down criminals who operate across national boundaries.