A telling detail uncovered in the 2019 Survey on Anti-Bribery & Corruption was that about 6 percent of respondents said they extend their data searches into the “Dark Web.” 

So what exactly is the Dark Web, and how does one use it in the due diligence process? An online Refinitiv white paper delves into it:

“This is a fundamental challenge facing everyone involved in the fast-paced world of emerging technologies and new ideas—a world where technology can be adopted for the benefit of society, but also exploited by those bent on criminal activity,” it reads.

“Many would agree that the Amazon ‘experience’ of legally purchasing books, music, and other items brings benefits to consumers. We freely use an Amazon I.D. to log in, make transactions, keep a browsing and purchase record, and receive recommendations on other things we might want. But unbeknown to most, a similar ‘storefront’ model exists on the Dark Web for weapons, drugs, and stolen identities.”

“There is no panacea for solving this problem, but it demonstrates the need for those who develop and protect these systems to remain one step ahead. In the same way that criminals seek to exploit technology for their purposes, if we want to tackle financial crime, or terrorism, we must develop new systems to find it, track it, and keep it out of our systems,” it adds. “The core to this is identity: If we can do a better job on identity verification at point of entry, we can do a better job on the backend of transaction risk management.”

That is why searching the Dark Web is so important. Most public-facing Web content is mapped on a constant basis with “spiders” that allow search giants like Google to give users nearly instant access. The Dark Web, however, was designed without a roadmap and requires specialized tools. For example, the well-known Tor browser.

The Tor Project, a non-profit, began “onion routing” in the 1990s. The Tor browser is its tool for using the internet with as much privacy as possible by routing traffic through multiple servers and decentralized networks, each with encryption.

When deployed, Tor code was released under an open software license. Its network grew to nearly a dozen volunteer nodes in the United States and Germany. Later came bridges to the Tor network to address censorship, thereby “gaining popularity among activists and those interested in privacy, although still difficult for less-technically savvy people to use,” notes to an online history of the Tor Browser.

Development of a new Tor Browser made it more accessible to average-skilled internet users and activists by protecting online identities, while allowing access to otherwise blocked resources, social media, and Websites.

Those ideals, however, were corrupted. If you know where to look, all manner of illegal items are for sale, including guns, human trafficking, drugs, and stolen identities and financial information.“When you look at all the peer-to-peer money movements that take place every day, including immigrants repatriating money, there are millions of small-dollar money movements going on at any given point in time. Is that a genuine worker who is simply sending money back to his family, or is that $100 going to fund criminal or even terrorist activity?”

“Determining identity is therefore a key part of risk management for any transaction,” the Refinitiv white paper says.