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Communications of the ACM


Financing the Dark Web

Financing the Dark Web, illustration

Credit: Andrij Borys Associates / Shutterstock

Law enforcement has long acted in accordance with the old adage of "following the money" when trying to track down those who commit crimes. Finding out who has paid for what usually provides a pretty strong picture of a crime and its relevant actors, even if no one had specifically witnessed the actions taking place.

Yet in cyberspace, following the money can be significantly more difficult, particularly on 'Dark Web' sites, where any number of illegal or immoral transactions are taking place, such as the sale of drugs, prostitution and human trafficking, illegal pornography, and other unsavory activities. The Dark Web, which is a huge set of web pages that are not indexed by traditional services such as Google and require a specific browser to access, have long played host to online marketplaces offering sex, drugs, and other illegal material. These marketplaces route communications and transactions via multiple computers and layers of encryption to protect the identities of vendors and purchasers, and often use cryptocurrency to further obfuscate the identities of the transacting parties.


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