South African officials are working together in a mission to snare dark web criminals from carrying out illegal operations within the nation.
The new initiative was formally announced by South Africa Police Service National Commissioner General Khehla Sitole in a press briefing at Bishop Lavis Police Station in Cape Town.
Strategic Move in Hunt for Darknet Criminals
Commissioner General Sitole, who was appointed to his position last November, unveiled the government-led directive to stop cybercrime late February.
He framed the initiative as a “turnaround strategy” to combat darknet-sourced cybercrime.
This initiative is expected to connect the different police departments that will be working together to complete their mission. According to a statement from the Parliament of the Republic of South Africa, the turnaround strategy is a law enforcement tactic that focuses on a proactive and reactive approach to policing.
Sitole also mentioned the used of “unconventional” means to hook to key cybercriminal targets. This involves police being embedded in the darknet environment to catch criminals in the act.
Further, Sitole announced the formation of a “modus operandi strategy center” which aims to catch well organized and networked dark web kingpins.
South Africans Increasingly Active in Cybercrime
For years, South Africa has accounted for a notable portion of global cybercrime. Reports indicating these trends even date back to five years ago. In 2013, researchers at cybersecurity firm Symantec reported that South Africa emerged among the top three countries in which cybercrime is experienced the most, alongside China and Russia.
Over the years, South Africa has also been a hotspot for use of the dark web. In 2015, reports from Tor (the software used to access the dark web) indicated that the number of users had increased to over 8,000 users a day in South Africa. This figure has slightly dipped recently, according to Tor relay metrics collected over 2017 indicating the average amount of South African users hovers between 5,000 and 6,000.
This data coincides a spike in criminal activities in the country such as illegal drug trafficking, weapons smuggling, piracy, human trafficking and online crimes on the dark web by the same percentage.
Last year, the largest online data breach in South African history took place, implicating the personal information of more than 30 million citizens in the nation.
According to a 2017 report from IBM and Ponemon Institute, South Africa is one of a select group of countries to experience the most financial loss due to data breaches, and those losses are increasing.
The intensifying threat by dark web cybercrime prompted action by the South African Police Service a year ago. At that time, the government launched a new program to provide special training to local police service men and women to help the in managing the dark web threat.
The results of that training program are expected to come to fruition as the personnel enter regular policing operations targeting the darknet, according to officials.
The Global Darknet Crackdown
Due to the anonymity offered by the dark web, the task to track down and apprehend darknet criminals has become almost impossible.
Internationally, governments and law enforcement agencies are adding more staff and resources to accomplish this goal. The United States Department of Justice recently launched its own dark web taskforce to target darknet drug sales.
For more support, the South African police service is joining forces with U.S. law enforcement agencies so as to collaborate in helping manage the threat posed by dark web criminals.