French government officials and security agencies believe the darknet is acting as a catalyst for the growth and sustainability of ISIS and alternative terrorist groups.
At an international cyber security conference in France, Guillaume Poupard, head of the French national security service the Agence nationale de la sécurité des systèmes d’information (ANSSI), established his strong stance on the darknet by explaining how the ISIS, Al-Qaeda and other terrorist groups are using anonymous networks to spread propaganda and obtain weapons illegally.
On January 27, DeepDotWeb reported that the Indian government and its law enforcement agencies are looking into Islamic preachers who are spreading propaganda and false beliefs of Islam, spreading values of terrorist groups. These preachers distributed disturbing videos and footages in the dark web to encourage young adults in joining terrorist groups.
Poupard and the rest of the national security service state that terrorist groups are using the dark web to their advantage, primarily as a tool to spread their beliefs, teachings and vision to the world.
“Digital attacks with major impacts are unlikely in the short term. However, that could change very fast. Our real fear, and we may already be there, is that they will use mercenaries, people who will do anything for money. The skills are complex, though not at the level of a nuclear weapon. With a few dozen people, a little money, but not that much, you can be effective,” said Poupard.
As seen in India, Poupard is concerned of terrorist groups and their supporters spreading instigating videos anonymously on the darknet. He emphasized that the ANSSI fears ISIS and other groups using technologies to spread their teachings more than the possibility of terrorist groups launching cyber attacks on the infrastructure of the national security agency.
At the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, Europol director Rob Wainwright brought up a similar claim to that of Poupard, stating that the Europol isn’t necessarily concerned about the cyberattacks terrorist groups have attempted to launch in the past.
Instead, Europol is concerned that terrorist groups in any geographical location can gain access to deadly weapons such as rifles, missiles and bombs through the dark web and marketplaces within it. Because darknet marketplaces are anonymous and the Tor Project is set to provide increasing anonymity to users, Europol believes ISIS can easily obtain weapons from the dark web without any boundaries.
“Even if they don’t have access to the capabilities, they can simply buy it on the darknet (a hidden internet realm of encrypted websites), where there is an enormous trade in cyber criminal technology. That said, attacking the critical national infrastructures at least of most countries is… not easily done, and it’s something that is not as immediate and showy as firing automatic weapons in a theatre or in public,” said Wainwright.
It is difficult to conclude whether the dark web and its marketplaces are serving as a catalyst for the growth of terrorist groups, as the magnitude of their operations were similarly large before the commercialization of the dark web.
In fact, it is logically not sound to blame the existence of the darknet to describe the sustainability of terrorist groups as it is not possible for large-scale groups to obtain hundreds of thousands of firearms and deadly weapons readily. Darknet could serve as a temporary solution to urgent needs of firearms but as a permanent source, it is very inefficient.
One of the reasons behind the inefficiency of darknet as a firearm source for large terrorist group is that bitcoin transactions can be traced back using the public blockchain. Terrorist groups or its members spread across the world will not risk exposing their geographical locations or true identities by using bitcoin to purchase weapons.