Experts question whether additional funding will help in the fight against criminals who exploit dark web
The Home Secretary Amber Rudd is expected to announce £9m in funding to crackdown on criminals exploiting the dark web.
Home Secretary will make the announcement at the UK’s largest cyber security conference (CYBERUK 2018) that the National Cyber Security Centre is hosting in Manchester.
However it seems that the funding will come from a previously announced £50m pot for the Home Office to improve the UK’s cyber defences.
The dark web of course is one of the main ways that criminals can obtain firearms, drugs, malware and other nastiness.
“[The dark web is] a dark and dangerous place where anonymity emboldens people to break the law in the most horrifying of ways,” Amber Rudd is expected to say. She has earmarked the £9m funding package to “enhance the UK’s specialist law enforcement response”.
The funds are part of a wider £50m funding pot that seeks to give police the capability to tackle cyber crime at a national, regional and local level over the next two years.
The government essentially wants a dedicated cyber crime unit to be established in each police force.
At the moment, only 30 percent of local police forces have a cyber capability that reaches the minimum standard.
But the additional funding has already prompted some experts to ask whether the funding is enough to tackle the problem. And indeed, whether it possible to take on the dark web at all.
“Giving police additional resources to investigate and bring cybercriminals to justice is a laudable goal, but £5m alone, allocated for the regional local level support, isn’t going to scratch the surface,” said Matt Walmsley, EMEA Director at Vectra
“Even if you get over the significant barriers of accurate attribution of the cybercrime, it’s more than likely the suspects will be outside of UK legal reach, and so challenging to bring to justice,” said Walmsley. “Talking of cleaning up the dark web is more political rhetoric rather than practical reality. If the Government seeks to impose UK access controls to the dark web, then aside from technical workarounds for the more online savvy, we’re going to be reopening the net-neutrality debate.”
But Walmsley did welcome any investments in further bolstering the UK’s own cyber defences.
Protection of critical national infrastructure and having the NCSC’s oversight and support to UK businesses and public sectors for significant cyber issues is good news,” he said. “However, ultimately UK organisations can’t rely on legislation, policing, or the government to minimise their cyber risk, instead they need to take direct ownership.”
“Cybercriminals are increasingly well resourced, innovative and highly motivated, and online attacks are becoming easier to execute,” he added, pointing out that artificial intelligence could be the key game changer here, as AI would respond quicker than its human counterparts.
“By focusing on behaviours, “what things do” rather than “what they are”, artificial intelligence can identify threats early in their lifecycle and allow resolutions before a major cyber incident occurs,” said Walmsley. “By stopping an attack in progress, it’s possible to limit its spread and reduce or prevent damage.”
Another expert echoed the feeling that the dark web crackdown was a purely political move.
“Amber Rudd cracking down on Dark web appears to be a political motive because it makes dark web actually sound like a real location where cybercriminals hang out but just don’t use their real names,” said Joseph Carson, Chief Security Scientist at Thycotic.
“However, it does have some positive news about cracking down on real criminals who use dark web to hide their tracks and criminal activities; this is definitely something we all want to see,” he added. “The real shock is that the person responsible for security is far from the reality of cybercrime, and £9m to clean up the dark web is not even going to make a dent.”
“You will have a better chance at cleaning the entire ocean from garbage than cleaning the dark web,” Carson added. “This money would be better spent on educating the future generation on identifying cybercrime, rather than trying to clean something which is almost impossible.”
This scepticism that the funding will help was echoed by another expert.
“There is no amount of money that will solve this issue,” said Ross Rustici, senior director, intelligence services, Cybereason. “Getting more beat police officers involved will help with the low level cyber crime, which, in turn will free up resources to go after harder problems.”
“Black markets on the dark web is less of a hydra problem than one might expect,” Rustici said. “Fundamentally, the market places have to operate on a basis of trust. If criminals don’t believe that they are anonymous while conducting the illegal activity they are unlikely to conduct it in that forum. The take down of Alpha Bay shook this trust quite a lot. If Interpol/Europol can take down a few more of the major markets, the ones that replace them will be less robust and trafficked. This doesn’t solve the problem, but it increases the cost of conducting the illegal activity which will hopefully serve as another deterrent.”
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