Dark net crimes rattle cops: Challenges and the catch


FEBRUARY 15, 2020

Sleuths of the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) from its Delhi zone unit said on Sunday that they had made India’s first Dark Net crime arrest from Lucknow. The catch was 21-year-old hotel management graduate Dipu Singh, who had shipped hundreds of psychotropic drug parcels abroad in the garb of sex stimulation medicines.

About 12,000 tablets worth crores of rupees were seized from his house. Last week, a Singapore-based cybersecurity company detected a database of credit and debit cards, issued by Indian banks, up for sale on Dark Web.

The database included payment records of 4,61,976 cards. The company informed the Indian Computer Emergency Response Team (CERTIn) about the leak. A probe is on.

Around the same time, a Kochi cybersecurity startup found a file containing around 93 million phone numbers registered with the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India’s National Do Not Call Registry (NDNS) – all for sale on Dark Net.

These are not isolated cases.

A senior official from the Union Ministry of Home Affairs (MHA) admitted that the threat of Dark Web is real and said that government agencies are working round the clock to keep criminals from using it to push drugs, child porn and human trafficking.

Others crimes include credit card frauds, identity thefts, besides contract killing and kidnapping.

The term Dark Net refers to networks and sites hidden from most Internet users and accessible only to those shrouded in anonymity who seek to buy and sell illegal goods ranging from drugs to stolen data and fake IDs.


“Dark Web is an unknown territory and a specialized group of people are needed to counter such a threat,” the MHA officer added.

Officials say it’s difficult for them to break into Dark Web networks because of their end-to-end encryption.

“Dark Web isn’t searchable by engines like Google nor is it accessible by normal browsers like Chrome or Safari. It’s not a place where we can log in or explore unless we have exact details of what to look for,” said a Delhi Crime Branch official.

So how to catch these Dark Net criminals?

“There are times when we have to make a honeypot decoy computer system for trapping these criminals. We sometimes pose as customers and service providers to dig deep inside the illicit trade. Dark Web is vast,” Bhisham Singh, Deputy Commissioner of Police (Cyber Crime) said.

“There are thousands of underground websites and networks. Dark Web will soon become a bigger menace for law enforcement agencies,” said Bhisham Singh.

Investigators also see technical-challenges to establish digital evidence in courts. “Most users are tracked in foreign countries. It’s a roadblock in investigation. There are multiple complexities and legal loopholes,” said an official. Take, for example, Dipu Singh’s case.

“His listings were found in one of the biggest Dark Net markets like Empire Market and Majestic Garden,” NCB Deputy Director General (operations) Rajesh Nandan Srivastava said.

The ring has international linkages and is spread across Singapore and the US and uses post offices and courier services as logistics, Srivastava said. NCB officers said most drug peddlers are abroad with a high number of clients in India. Young drug abusers are tech-friendly and use hidden sites and networks to remain anonymous.

KPS Malhotra, Delhi Zonal Director, NCB, said: “We are on toes to combat drugs peddlers opting for Dark Net. NCB is also collaborating with international agencies to control the menace.”

There is another challenge — Deals are done through crypto currencies like Bitcoin.

“These are used to deal in drugs, database, fake currency and firearms. As identities remain anonymous, enforcement agencies are unable to trace Dark Net criminals,” a cyber security expert, Kislay Chaudhary said. He is Chairman of Indian Cyber Army, an NGO.

Gautam Kumawat, another cybersecurity expert, said the combination of crime and Dark Net is lethal; no wonder security agencies are struggling to break into these illegal networks.

“Hitmen are also available on Dark Net for contract killings,” he said.


KISLAY CHAUDHARY: Crypto currencies are used to deal in drugs, database, fake currency and firearms. As identities remain anonymous, enforcement agencies are unable to trace Dark Net criminals.

GAUTAM KUMAWAT: The combination of crime and Dark Net is lethal. Hitmen are also available

Courtesy/Source: India Today