International Workshop Policing the Dark Web

The Hague, 26 September 2017 – Increase international cooperation, uniform Internet regulations, fill innovation and research gaps. These among the main actions identified by 70 international law enforcement, research and industry experts who police crime on the Dark Web. They met at the Hague Security Delta on the 26th of September, in the framework of the Cyber Security Week, during a workshop organized by TNO. It was a big succes given the global evaluation score of 9 out of 10!

How do we reduce and eliminate criminal activities facilitated by the Dark Web? This question was tackled by the TNO workshop held on 26 September, during the Cyber Security Week 2017 at the HSD in The Hague. The workshop was organized by TNO around the subject of policing the Dark Web for the EU R&D project MEDI@4SEC. MEDI@4SEC focuses upon enhancing understanding of the opportunities, challenges and ethical consideration of social media use for public security: the good, the bad and the ugly. The goal for the day was to share good practices across Europe and to sketch the future of Dark Web policing. Short keynote presentations provided the participants with a quick start into the matter. Law enforcement representatives presented their last developments in successful policing initiatives, such as the take down of AlphaBay and Hansa or investigations from narcotics and counter-terrorism teams. Tools developed by EU projects (e.g. TITANIUM) and industry (e.g., Chainalysis’ blockchain analytics) were also demonstrated. This set the scene for an intense afternoon of group brainstorms, and finally a panel discussion with policy makers.

Challenges and Conditions for Policing the Dark Web

The Dark Web continuously offers new opportunities to criminals. “There is a growing concern on the opportunities the Dark Web creates for financing terrorism, and on the cheap, asymmetric and decentralized approach that cyber attackers adopt”. Additionally, dark markets create a transnational and highly dynamic context, where criminals can innovate very fast. This requires an increased coordination at the international level. “A global combating strategy is tough to achieve, therefore we have to focus on concrete initiatives” says Markus Walter, European Commission, “not only at the European level; many coordinated local efforts exist and should be strengthened”. A lot of good work is in fact already in place: to grow in efficiency and limit duplications and costs, we should increase the exchange of information and collaboration. Examples are centralized dark web trainings, a common (bitcoins) database and shared analytics tools for investigators.

Homogeneity becomes a key-word at the legal and regulatory level as well: we should create a common international legal framework, comprising Internet as well as cryptocurrency regulations, and demand mandatory risk assessments for service providers and cyber-relevant companies.

Finally, disrupting the dark markets requires continuous innovation at the research level. “We do not have enough knowledge inhouse” says Jaap van Oss, Dutch High Tech Crime Unit, “so we experiment collaborations with those who do”. Research institutions and private companies should play an increasing role and be stimulated to conduct R&D on the existing gaps. We need to keep researching automatic data investigation tools, digital forensics methods, big data solutions, and tactics for countering the voices on the Dark Web.

A Way Forward

Despite the long list of needed actions, the day closes with notes of optimism. Jaap van Oss: “operation Bayonet shows how we evolved in the last years; the capability to internationally cooperate and succeed is now concrete.“ And Francesca Bosco, UNICRI, concludes: “I went from a feeling of ‘the sky is falling’, to an optimistic view. Today we discussed several innovations and a common goal for overarching international cooperation. The gaps can be filled”.

Dark Web Solutions program

Since 5 years, TNO conducts research to effective Dark Web interventions and its required methodologies. Our Dark Web Solutions program ( finds its foundations on a broad range of disciplines (from criminology, behavioural science and cybersecurity to data science, text mining and image analytics) and works towards concrete solutions. These solutions are realized in projects as ASGARD, MEDI@4SEC and TITANIUM.

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