A report finds terrorists are largely uninterested in using readily available communication methods on the dark web.
The report, published by Thomas Rid and Daniel Moore, a pair of researchers at King's College in London, created a crawler to categorise about 300,000 dark web addresses on Tor. The researchers discovered a notable lack of jihadi activity on the dark web forums.
“One noteworthy finding was our confirmation of the near-absence of Islamic extremism on Tor hidden services, with fewer than a handful of active sites,” the researchers wrote.
Recruitment has been a chief goal of terror groups' use of social media platforms such as Twitter and Facebook. In contrast to these platforms, the reach of dark web propaganda is limited, “not least because novices may be deterred by taking an ‘illicit' step early on”, the researchers wrote.
Not that the dark web was exactly a haven of innocents. The most common uses of websites posted on Tor involved criminal services, including “drugs, illicit finance and pornography involving violence, children and animals”. Out of the 2,723 active sites of the dark web, they found 1,547 sites were used for illicit services.
As intelligence officials and policymakers revisit the ‘going dark' debate, especially in light of the terror attack in Brussels last week, the research provides added support to the growing roster of intelligence officials, including chief of US Cyber Command and director of the National Security Agency Admiral Mike Rogers, who argue that encryption is a necessary requirement for securing private data.
Last week, Gen. Michael Hayden, former director of the National Security Agency and the CIA, said the government needs to “get over” the public battle between the FBI and Apple.
“Understand that no matter what we do with Apple, it's going to get harder and harder to get content,” he added.