05:09 GMT05 July 2020
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    The dark web just got darker. New research into the hidden services available on Tor, which is free software that enables anonymous communication, has found that the majority of websites relate to criminal activities.

    "The results suggest that the most common uses for websites on Tor hidden services are criminal, including drugs, illicit finances and pornography involving violence, children and animals," according to Professor Thomas Rid and PhD student Daniel Moore from Kings College London.

    The academics harvested data from Tor in order to analyze the content as part of an essay and research project "Cryptopolitik and the Darknet", which has been published in 'Survival', a journal from the International Institute for Strategic Studies.

    The dark net or dark web is an area of the Internet that exists beneath the radar of standard search engines like Google. Rid and Moore discovered that 57 percent of the material on the dark web was illicit. 

    Its existence within cyberspace causes constant concern for governments and authorities as being an area ridden with criminals and people with extremist views.

    The dark web ranges from social media sites to secretive corners of encrypted cyberspace. Encryption is a way of keeping date secure; a secret key or password is needed in order to decrypt it.

    It's also how Internet, communications and businesses store personal information.

    The British government want to pass a law to make it possible to request a warrant to force companies to allow agencies and authorities access to private encrypted data to catch potential terrorists.

    Dubbed the Snoopers' Charter, the Investigatory Powers Bill will force Internet Service Providers (ISPs) to store information on every website visited by a potential terror suspect for a year, allowing security agencies to intercept and bulk collect swathes of private communications data. If passed, the Bill risks compromising everyone's right to privacy.

    According to an abstract written by Moore and Rid, ahead of the publication of their essay on the dark web: "Encryption policy is becoming a crucial test of the values of liberal democracy in the twenty-first century.

    "The trigger is a dilemma: the power of ciphers protects citizens when they read, bank and shop online — and the power of ciphers protects foreign spies, terrorists and criminals when they pry, plot and steal. Encryption bears directly on today's two top threats, militant extremism and computer-network breaches — yet it enables prosperity and privacy," the abstract states.

    The academics ask whether "the state limit and regulate the fast-growing use of cryptography?" and "if so, how?"

    Mariarosaria Taddeo, computer ethics expert at Oxford University recently explained to Sputnik that encryption "is the most efficient way of ensuring privacy."

    "It's a tool to protect your rights as citizens, yet also for criminals to hide. The government needs to strike a balance," Taddeo told Sputnik.

    The academics behind research project "Cryptopolitik and the Darknet" hope to "introduce some new perspective that is somewhat moderate" to the debate on encryption, according to Motherboard.

    "We wanted to introduce a more nuanced discussion and stake out the middle ground between those two extremes," Moore told the publication.

    However, according to Taddeo, if the debate is to get serious "the UK, Europe and the US need to be involved."

    "There is a real need for a debate on encryption and there is a need for a debate on mass surveillance to ensure security," Taddeo told Sputnik.

    The British government want sweeping powers to decrypt communications. The debate of encryption, continues.


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