The dark web is a current lingering buzzword that rules the upper echelons of cybersecurity.
In a general sense, the hidden web has become common fodder for discussions surrounding information technology and its implications on global financial development.
Still, it seems that a large proportion of the earthly populace lack full knowledge of the daily happenings of the dark web.
This aspect extends right from the common Joe who understands it from hearsay, to those who have visited the dark web firsthand via Tor.
Agreeably, whether you have walked the corridors of dark web or not, the informed perspective of dark web criminal functions is an imperative—an understanding of underground web communities goes a long way to equip consumers with data used in the handling of threat intelligence.
It is for this reason that cybersecurity firm IntSights Cyber Intelligence has made steps to examine the dark web through an analytical lens.
Through an announcement, IntSights recently presented its latest threat intelligence report, “The Dark Side of Asia,” which provides a behind-the-scenes view into the workings of the dark web within the context of Asian cyber culture.
First thing’s first—what exactly signifies the need for such a report?
Well, it all boils down to the manner in which organizations and governments aspire to defeat international cyber threats.
The exponential growth of the dark web has pushed corporate organizations and countries to revolutionize the methodologies used in the protection of cyber spaces.
Thorough knowledge of the cyber world has shifted from a keen focus on potential threats existing in the spheres of cyber groups.
Instead, stakeholders have now understood the criticality of evaluating cultural differences and the policy frameworks that typify their jurisdictions.
By this, they become capable of combating the growing dark web quagmire from its roots.
This detail outstretches the fact that the activities of global threat hunters are greatly affected by transboundary barriers in the abstract—factors that extend right from the basic Asian cultural level to snippets of government legislations that governs cyber behavior.
Having said that, the new IntSights Cyber Intelligence report peels back the mask of the burgeoning underground Asian cyber world, and feeds stakeholders with sets of hot tips regarding the darknet landscape in Asia and including the corresponding cyber activities that ramify throughout Asian internet.
Likewise, this report explicates the dynamic between governments and its cyber citizens, an aspect that affects threat hunting in many ways.
The Report: An Inside Look
The new report by IntSights’ researchers is backed by investigative details about dark web sites in Japan, China, South Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam.
Quite obviously, Japan and China rule the upper echelons of Asian internet while, for the sake of this article, South Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam form the league of “small fishes.”
But how do these Asian darknet players differ from their counterparts in the Western world?
Let’s take a look.
According to the IntSights report, the Japanese dark web is popular to a surprising majority of internet users, apart from cybercriminals, as it provides a platform for the freedom of expression.
In this regard, the dark web is used by liberal minds with the desire to broadcast their views and opinions anonymously.
This aspect develops from cultural differences stemming from the Japanese context when compared to Western attitudes—it is common to find Japanese blogs that are tucked in dark web spaces, yet their contents would be considered mainstream to the Western eye.
Additionally, illegal use of the dark web is a reality in Japan, with cases of the distribution of drugs and exploitative material involving children.
Nonetheless, even in the face of illicit dark web use, the behavior of Japanese dark web netizens differs sharply from their Western counterparts.
As an example, Japanese users tend to be more courteous in their communication as opposed to Western netizens.
Issues of Policy and Legislation
Japanese legislation is quite categorical in its fight against darknet crime.
Specifically, Japanese law is among the unique global legislations that outlaw the creation and spread of malware.
The laws in Japan provide a direct reference to this aspect, and prescribe prison sentences for offenders.
Hitherto, arrests have been made to this effect, and more convictions are expected to take place in the near future.
Nonetheless, It is noteworthy that networking crimes have been seen to consistently rise in the Republic of Japan since the beginning of the third millennium.
It is also important to acknowledge constitutional shortcomings that affect Japan’s efforts towards total cybersecurity.
In this regard, some snippets of the Constitution of Japan prevent it from proactively protecting itself from state-sponsored cyber threats, whereby:
- Article 9 of Japan’s Constitution unreservedly prohibits the application of war as a means of solving disputes. This bars Japan from launching cyberattacks against offensive states, even in justifiable contexts.
- Article 21 of Japan’s Constitution promotes absolute secrecy of communication platforms. This legislation complicates the ability of Japanese law enforcers to shut down communication infrastructure used in cybercrime.
The two samples of Japanese laws have made it exceedingly difficult for authorities to control the proliferation of illicit dark web activities, through investigations and consequential website seizures.
Certainly, this reality differs from that of their Western counterparts.
Chinese internet culture differs sharply from that of Japan.
While criminals in other jurisdictions turn to the dark web as the ultimate communication platform, China’s internet infrastructure is highly regulated.
Most Chinese internet users exist on the surface web because the nation’s authorities have placed steep roadblocks at the entrance of the underground internet.
In fact, Chinese cybercriminals have a greater chance of netting more buyers on the surface web than in the hidden web, for obvious reasons.
This aspect translates to high risks but greater profits.
Nonetheless, the cybercriminals have adapted to these challenges by establishing jargons and codenames used to disguise their operations in an effort to circumvent government crackdowns.
Moreover, in China, there exists a relatively small number of darknet sites in comparison to their English and Russian counterparts.
Chinese deep web forums are mostly littered with ordinary folk and inexperienced hackers that are out to sharpen their expertise.
In addition, Chinese black markets mostly use the Chinese currency as opposed to anonymized digital monies.
Issues of Policy and Legislation
The Chinese Communist Party is famous for its dedicated onslaught against internet users in the country.
The same outfit has been known to extend its firm stance in the context of “Internet Sovereignty,” which correlates national sovereignty to total control of China’s cyberspace.
As a country, China exercises strict regulation over the flow of information across all platforms, whether physical or online.
It is to this effect that the Chinese government instituted the national Cybersecurity Law in mid-2017.
According to this law, China’s commitment in the fight against unrestricted internet use was consolidated and has been instrumental in keeping darknet attitudes at bay.
The Smaller Fish: South Korea, Indonesia and Vietnam
The inception of South Korean darknet platforms began in the mid-2000s.
The overall populace of dark web users have continued to grow over time, although the statistics indicate a comparatively low degree of dark web popularity in that part of the world.
As opposed to Japan, the South Korean internet underground is almost entirely fixed to illicit online activity, with credit card theft and drug sales topping the charts.
According to the IntSights Cyber Intelligence report, child exploitation material and hacking expeditions are also part and parcel of the South Korean darknet space.
In Indonesia, dark web infrastructure is not very well developed owing to the fact that surface web platforms, like in China, host most of the nation’s black market netizens.
A distinctive point of the Indonesian dark web is its application in the sustenance of gambling activities, which have been outlawed in the country.
Finally, in Vietnam, underground markets are adapted to child exploitation material, the drug business and cryptocurrency exchange.
It is however interesting to note that English is used as a mode of communication in these platforms as a measure to duck government detection.
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