Federal crimes in cyberspace are growing exponentially in number and sophistication. The Federal Government of the United States is actively pursuing tougher sentencing laws. The age-old problem of how to stay one step ahead of their opponents still confronts law enforcement.
Historically, police and criminals continually tried to one-up each other. Each side modified vehicles and weapons, but criminals had time on their side. Delays in obtaining search warrants hindered police. Frustrating loopholes prevented convictions even when unassailable witnesses identified criminals caught in the act.
Levels of internet intrusion
Crime is no longer carried out solely in the streets. The internet protects white-collar criminals by allowing them to cloak their identities, actions and locations. They can operate from the privacy of homes or workplaces in nearly every country.
A typical misconception is that the internet is a transparent interactive unit. However, the internet divides into onion-like layers, areas invisible to most internet users. Law enforcement is hard-pressed to discover criminal activity in the deepest layer of the internet. Controversy exists about entrapment issues.
The surface web, the deep web and the dark web
People access the surface web using standard browsers and search engines. Authorities can access individual identities by name and location through a service provider, via e-mail and on social media.
A second internet layer, called the deep web, hides beneath the surface web. Access to the deep web requires a unique password and name. The deep web is approximately 500 times larger than the surface web.
The third encrypted and invisible layer occupies a smaller section of the deep web. A user needs a special TorBrowser and a keyword to shop dark web criminal storefronts for illegal goods and services. Law enforcement uses the dark web to trace criminal activity and identify users.
White-collar crime is defensible in dark web cases because federal courts, worried about Fourth Amendment issues, do not make dark web code available to defenders who challenge the prosecution’s evidence. Therefore, courts drop these cases. Anyone guilty of using the dark web for white-collar crime may benefit when experienced representation can leverage the court’s nervous disinclination to force code-sharing.