The dark web is the UK government’s latest crackdown to the tune of £9m

The UK government is set to announce an unprecedented £9m crackdown on illicit dark web activity with drug dealing, paedophilia, and arms trafficking the primary targets, it has been reported.

Home Secretary Amber Rudd is expected to announce the dark web offensive at the National Cyber Security Centre’s CyberUK 2018 conference in Manchester later today, according to multiple news outlets.

The £9m earmarked to tackle dodgy dark web dealings (are there any other kind?) will form part of a larger £50m Home Office allocation anti-cybercrime initiative.

Ms Rudd will use her speech at the event to warn that the dark web offers a “sickening shopping list of services and products” and is a “dark and dangerous place where anonymity emboldens people to break the law in the most horrifying of ways.”

New funding will also be made available to fight online criminal activities at a community level, with Rudd expected to recount the following personal story in her address at the conference.

“My father was the victim of fraud and I know from personal experience the importance of supporting those who have been victimised through no fault of their own. And now that it’s happening online, it’s happening to even more people.”

The latest government figures highlight a start underinvestment in UK cybercrime police training. Only 30% of local police forces reach the minimum training levels at present, while a recent report revealed that only £1.3m had been invested over the last three years in such courses.

Just what kind of impact the UK government’s dark web blitz will have remains to be seen. If there’s one thing that can be said for cybercriminals, it’s that they’re eternally crafty, with the eradication of one dodgy online platform usually just giving rise to the next.

Related: Best VPNs

Still, it’s a start…

What is the dark web? A quick primer

The dark web is the part of the internet that can’t be accessed through a typical search engine. Rather, it’s a layer of websites that live on an encrypted network that can only be accessed if you’re using an equally encrypted browser. Tor, or ‘The Onion Router’, is the best known of these browsers and virtually all dark web sites can be accessed using it.

Drugs marketplace The Silk Road was (and still is, albeit in different guises) one example of the kind of site that can exist on the dark web. The end-to-end encryption on which the dark web is based – which is to say, that both user and host theoretically have their identity protected –means it is fertile ground for this kind of illicit activity.

Sometimes, the dark web is also called the deep web, but this is a misnomer.

The deep web consists of all websites and pages that aren’t indexed by, or directly accessible through, a search engine or simple URL. Companies and organisations usually have a number of these for security reasons, and you might frequent more of the deep web than you realise – the bank accounts you likely access online being one example of mundane deep web activity.

Therefore, the deep web includes all dark web pages because they are protected from common view, but the two aren’t technically the same thing, despite what you might read in tabloid headlines.

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