Observational research is defined as research focusing on the observation of behavior in an unobtrusive manner (Bryant, n.d). In essence, it allows researchers to experience a specific aspect of social life and get a firsthand look at a trend, institution, or behavior. While this is nothing new, it would be ideal to observe the reactions in the rich data source known as the "dark web" together with anonymous behavioral tracking methods.
We're all accustomed to the typical search engines such as Google, Yahoo, and Bing. However, there are unlimited reaches of cyberspace which are not visited by the average user. The dark web is the “part of the internet that isn’t visible to search engines and requires the use of an anonymizing browser” (Guccione, 2019). Sheldon (2015) points out that we only experience about 5% of the entire reaches of cyberspace. Basically, cyberspace is huge with unlimited reaches and latitude to grow and move around in obscurity. Hence, I believe if we’re dealing with cybercrime and wish to look at sources of data; the dark web is one of the most ideal places to look at. Additionally, the dark web provides a “safe haven for those with nefarious intentions” and this is whereby the majority of cyber crimes take place. These range from drug deals, human trafficking, child pornography and just about any other illegal underhanded activity that can be conducted through cyberspace (Sheldon, 2015).
My main argument is that if we want to learn about cybercrime, or obtain relevant data then one of the most ideal places to look at as a source is where it occurs or is being conducted. Of course, this would be a rather complex approach because it’s not like we can go to the dark web and have one on one interviews. Additionally, in order to traverse the dark web, we must be capable of conducting much of the technical requirements.
However, there are existing proven methods that can help us gain raw facts and statistics. Osborne (2015) explains that a security team of Bitglass conducted an experiment with a fake document of fake employee data with a special watermark. Even if it was copied, pasted, or corrupted the watermark would persist and remain trackable. This was then uploaded to anonymous file-sharing sites within the dark web and within days it had made its way to North America, South America, Asia, Europe, and Africa with time, location, and IP addresses. Specific details showed that time, location, and addresses uncovered high rates of activity among two groups of viewers which possibly indicated crime syndicates in Nigeria and Russia.
Methods such as these show us that we can gather raw data from the dark web. In turn, through careful analysis, we can begin to dissect and interpret the data which shows relevant information of most sought crimes, trends, and test theories. We can also look at where and when the possibilities of the crime emerge and so much more. With careful modifications, these can be manipulated to study the different forms of cybercrimes such as Cyber (Trespass, Deception & Theft, Violence, Pornography & Obscenity). Ultimately, the dark web is a rich data source that can help tremendously in the study of cybercrime which can help uncover and understand cybercrime from a social science perspective.
Bryant, M. (n.d). Conducting Observational Research. Retrieved from https://www.deakin.edu.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0004/681025/Participant-observation.pdf
Guccione, D. (2019). What is the Dark Web? How to Access it and What You’ll Find. Retrieved from https://www.csoonline.com/article/3249765/what-is-the-dark-web-how-to-access-it-and-what-youll-find.html
Osborne, C. (2015). Diving into the Dark Web: Where Does Your Stolen Data Go? Retrieved from https://www.zdnet.com/article/diving-into-the-dark-web-where-does-your-stolen-data-go-in-the-underground/
Sheldon, R. (2015). Cybercrime - The Dark Edges of the Internet. Retrieved from https://www.red-gate.com/simple-talk/cloud/security-and-compliance/cybercrime-the-dark-edges-of-the-internet/
published by Alberto J. Matus