A couple of days ago the Italian police announced the outcome of a major operation against a number of hidden services on the darknet. There are several interesting aspects of the reports which appeared as a result of the fuller briefing given to a number of media outlets, as opposed to the bare bones of the Europol press release:
1. In the course of the operation the police seized 14,000 Bitcoin wallets worth about 1 million euros (£700,00 or US$ 1.1 million)
2. There was evidence that around 170,000 different transactions had taken place through the services in question. These covered a broad range of crime: drugs was a big part of it but also on offer were false identity papers, hacker kits, credit card codes and other stuff. The police got into this wider set of crimes through an initial operation which began with looking into the distribution of child abuse images.
3. It took the Italian police two years to complete their work and get to the point where they could arrest the site’s organizer, seize the Bitcoin wallets, close everything down and announce the results.
4. I am sure two years was needed but one is bound to wonder about the sort of world we have allowed to be created where it takes such a long time to deal with something like this. How much damage might have been done while the investigative processes were being completed using undercover policing methods? What level of resources was devoted to this action and are they sustainable?
There has to be a better way. We should all refuse to accept that this type of outrageous abuse of cyberspace is the inevitable price we must all pay in perpetuity for the many undoubted benefits the internet has brought to the world.