The Dark Side of the Internet: Fraud, Theft, and Illegal Trade

Authors: Erikas Saukalas, partner at METIDA, attorney-at-law, head of International Relations Division, court mediator; Aleksandras Špiliauskas,  Lawyer at METIDA

tamsusis internetasDid you know that 96 per cent of all pages on the Internet cannot be accessed with standard browsers and that many of them violate intellectual property rights? Some authors of web content have long fallen into the crosshairs of the Dark Web – the dark side of the digital world – without even being aware of it.

Internet dark spots

Do we often stop to think what happens when we use Google to search for something? The common belief is that Google visits every website (or at least the absolute majority of them) searching for a match between our query and the information that certain pages carry. Therefore, people tend to believe that if Google cannot find something, it does not exist on the Internet at all. In reality, Google only searches for matches amidst the web content that is accessible to search engines (such as Google), and the settings of the webpage we are looking for allow that page to be viewed, or indexed.

That which can be viewed with search engines is called the Surface Web, while content that is hidden from them is called the Deep Web.

The owners of Deep Web pages do not want their content to be publicly accessible and therefore have programmers or webpage administrators to hide (encode) absolutely all information pertaining to their page. It is impossible or extremely difficult to access such networks with standard browsers. As a result, this portion of the Deep Web is called the Dark Web.

The Dark Web carries a lot of illegal content, which is hidden intentionally, for instance, in order to sell counterfeit goods or spread pirated copies of content. Also, there are quite a few webpages that do not want to advertise themselves due to their evil intent: they collect personal user data or disseminate malware, viruses.

Virtually any object of intellectual property can be subject to illegal distribution or use on one Dark Web page or another. For instance, there are online shops that deal in exclusively pirated software. Notably, copyrighted goods are sold on such pages without the authorisation to do so from the authors. As often as not, webpages like that have all the functionality of professional stores, complete with seller ratings, order histories, group discussions, and other options to exchange information. This type of e-store also allows buying illegal items both in exchange of regular currency, and electronic units of payment, bitcoins.

Recording violations

Owners of intellectual property rights must recognize the threats coming from the Dark Web and take appropriate action, e.g., watch websites originating in the Dark Web and contact the authorities if any violation of copyright is suspected. Time matters, too: the sooner action is taken, the higher the probability that the fact of the violation will be validated or other circumstances relevant to the application of the appropriate remedy (such as lawsuit) will be proven.

The names of Deep Web pages and the elements of their IP addresses are constantly changing, which makes it rather difficult for law enforcement agencies to identify and support any fact of violation. In this case, it is the users coming across a violation who should take immediate action: make screenshots (with the IP address visible, if possible), and do other things to record instances of online violations or fraud.

In any case, one should know that violations of intellectual property rights not only happen in the conventionally-defined electronic space, but also in the dark corners of the Internet; therefore, both regular people and companies (specially entrepreneurs and owners of intellectual property rights) may want to look into ways to protect their intellectual property to prevent themselves from attention of Dark Web, and consult legal adviser who specialises in the relevant field.

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