NEW DELHI: The use of cryptocurrencies on the darknet for terror acts and drug trafficking by militant organizations is posing a severe threat to the national security and a big challenge to security agencies in India, according to cyber experts.
Cryptocurrencies have emerged as the most advanced methods of terror financing and when it is being transacted on the dark net-like TOR, Freenet, Zeronet and Perfectdark, it becomes untraceable for the security agencies. Money launderers, cybercriminals and terrorists find cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Monero, Ripples and Zcash highly convenient because they offer anonymity and non-traceability.
The darknet is a deep under variable link in the area of internet where one cannot find the identity of the users as the router browser keeps complete anonymity on the identity of the users. It keeps the user anonymous with whom he or she is interacting with because of the end-to-end encryption, cyber expert Pawan Duggal said.
In both cases, the anonymity creates real challenges for the law enforcing agencies in India and it has created a unique "cybercrime economy" on the darknet where all kinds of cybercrimes and services are now increasingly being offered, he added.
The security agencies need to be trained to penetrate these online systems to trace the sources of funding and purpose so that the preventive steps can be taken, Duggal further said.
A senior official in the Narcotics Control Bureau (NCB) said that the use of this platform is not only confined to drug trafficking or narco trade but this has been of late being used by many terror organizations across the world.
The NCB has been constantly combating the drug peddlers opting for Dark Net and it has collaborated with international agencies to control the menace.
The darknet also provides self-destructive mailboxes and proxy servers where people can use fake IDs. It definitely makes it difficult to prove a particular charge and there is a requirement for an amendment to the Information Technology Act and Evidence Act, Duggal further said.
The TOR software, Freenet, Zeronet, Perfect dark, are some popular darknet browsers and these can be accessed only through specialized software.
The TOR, the most popular with over two million daily users, uses the onion routing method which is a layered technology that routes traffic through the established layers to conceal the identities of the users.
Despite all, the encrypted and concealed identities of the deep web, the cyber experts said that the law-enforcing agencies are now able to infiltrate in these browsers through honey pots (posing as seller or buyer on these browsers).
"In most of the cases, the cryptocurrencies have been used for narco- trade and money laundering and terrorists do not use this virtual currency as this is traceable by the agencies," a counter-terror expert Rituraj Mate said.
He also said that cryptocurrency can be used by terror organizations once it is legitimized in India. Once it gets official permission, it is apprehended that the ultras may use somebody's account for terror funding.
As far as darknet is concerned, Mate also said that the browser like TOR are also tractable and the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has mastered the art of infiltrating dark net groups and collecting information, evidence to prosecute cybercrimes. Interpol has also started training program on the dark net related crime for the law-enforcement agencies of the world, he added.
The Indian agencies have a tie-up with international agencies like the CIA, FBI and Interpol for exchange of information on a regular basis whereas Indian agencies also have capabilities to track the identities of the users on these browsers, Mate further added.
On November 13, the issue was comprehensively discussed in a high-level meeting chaired by Prime Minister Narendra Modi with all stakeholders, and it was learnt that the government is mulling to introduce a bill in the winter session of Parliament to regulate the dealing of cryptocurrencies in India.
Officials have however said that Indian agencies are technically sound and skilled to penetrate into the darknet browsers and they have successfully tracked many cases of narco trade and hawala transactions.
"We are capable of tracking and nabbing the criminals on the darknet and have enough manpower to handle this issue but we need to increase our infrastructures like high configuration servers and better coordination in sharing information with foreign law enforcing agencies," a senior official said on the condition of anonymity. (IANS)