Feb 7, 2020 in Technologies
Elicit Activity and ICT

ICT

What is ICT?

Information and Communication Technology, commonly abbreviated as ICT, is an umbrella term. ICT comprises all application or communication devices such as television, computer, cellular phone, computer hardware and software, and satellite systems. As an umbrella term, ICT also includes several services associated with the use of various information devices such as, for example, video conferencing. It involves retrieval, storage, transmission, and manipulation of any form of digital data. More importantly, ICT is concerned with a process in which different users can work together. ICT has been successfully implemented in various sectors of the economy such as healthcare, education, and military operations with the purpose to modernize human’s life. However, it is negatively used by hackers for personal gains, who break in and gain access to other people’s computers. Although some hackers do that just for fun, some have gained unauthorized access to the government computer systems and leaked confidential information; they have stolen customer’s personal information and caused damage to the systems.

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A Brief History of the Future

Since the establishment of the International Federation for Information Processing (IFIP) in 1960, which is a non-profit organization dedicated to exploration and processing of information and communication technologies, the last few decades have witnessed seismic changes in ICT. Government and organizational computing architectures have shifted from mainframe computing to client-server and cloud computing. Information technology has produced new professional models based on electronic commerce and service-oriented architecture. Communities and nations are heavily relying on ICT to leapfrog into the future. As a result, critical questions continue to linger in the minds of not just the researchers but also the users. What is likely to shape the future of ICT? What are some of the plans do humans need to make so as to benefit from future developments? How will future development of ICT impact on users’ privacy? With such fundamental questions being unanswered, the future of ICT remains an anticipated thing. However, it is definite that ICT will shape the way humans interact, communicate, and conduct business. Based on the econometric model (the cyber 2025 model), various researchers forecast that the next few decades will witness expansive technological growth. The worldwide adoption of smartphones grew tenfold between 2007 and 2013. If it continues to grow this way, 80% of internet connections may come from mobile devices by the year 2025. Another important feature that will shape the future of ICT is cyber security. Cyber security will be a key challenge for the future ICT.

Military and Strategic Implications

The military is one of the many industries that heavily rely on ICT. As a result, ICT has revolutionized the industry from dumb bombs to computer-controlled weapons. It has transformed the people-centric battlefield management to network-centric one and aftermath combat review to real-time combat surveillance. ICT in the military has impacted on how modern warfare is conducted in that it has enabled selection of precise targets. Apart its application in the battlefield, it has also enhanced the delivery of supplies. The military has a complex supply chain, where an item is needed at the right place and at the right time. The use of tracking systems and other technologies such as barcodes and RFID devices ensures a timely delivery of supplies.

Access to Public Information

In the recent past, ICT has been used to access public information. Electronic devices, social media networks, and the internet have been used in an attempt to enhance communication and information.

 

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DEEP WEB

What is the Deep Web?

The deep web is a word used to define the internet content that cannot be accessed by Google, Bing, or Yahoo. Due to some technical reasons, the deep web is not indexed by search engines. The “normal” search engines are not able to access:

  • Blocked sites- these are the websites that explicitly prohibit a crawler to go and retrieve their content by using CAPTCHAs;
  • Dynamic web pages – the pages on the internet that are dynamically generated on the HTTP request;
  • Unlinked sites - these are web pages that are not linked to any other page and thus they prevent a web crawler from potentially reaching them;
  • Non-HTLM/Contextual/ Scripted content - the content that is encoded in a different formed accessed via JavaScript or flash;
  • Private sites are pages that require registration and log-in password authentication;
  • Limited-access networks - this encompasses content that is not accessible from the general public internet infrastructure

The Deep Web History

The Deep Web surfaced in 1994 as a hidden web. Its inception is highly informed by the “onion routing”- a Naval research project. The onion routing system was the first step in establishment of the TOR (The Onion Router) project. The Deep Web comprises approximately 90% of what is on the internet. From the time when it was developed, it has been used mainly by criminals to conduct illegal businesses, such as selling of false credentials and drug business. It has, thus, grown to be the place where intranets within the larger internet space are created and only accessible to the users who know passwords. The Deep Web has thrived and has started to be used by pornographers, drug kingpins, arms dealers, and other criminal entities to communicate with each other. Although the Deep Web has been described as evil by many, it has also become a safe place for people who feel that their personal liberties on the internet have been threatened or for individuals who believe that the government is tracking them. After the news that the US and the UK started conducting surveillance on the internet usage, many people turned to the Deep Web. In 2011, the FBI was able to crack the code TOR used and thus tried to shut the site down. Yet, the Deep Web remained in operation. The government has severally tried to gain access to it so as to find and apprehend criminals who are thought to conduct illegal businesses.

TOR

TOR (The Onion Router) was a World Wide network server initially established by the U.S Navy. The network enabled people to browse in disguise. This means that one can browse without being tracked. TOR network helps a user conceal his or her identity as it moves the traffic across different TOR servers and encrypts the same traffic to ensure it does not come back to the user. TOR is the most accessible gateway into the Deep Web where criminals conduct their business. NSA has been tracking the network since its establishment in 2002. Russia and the United States of America are the two nations working tirelessly to expose TOR users. As for Russia, it has given out an offer of over $100, 000 for any person who can effectively deanonymize TOR. All TOR users, both the criminals and those who are using it for their personal use without breaking any laws, are treated with great suspicion as indicated by Edward Snowden, a whistle-blower who successfully leaked the list of individuals NSA is following or targeting based on their use of this anonymous network. In the leaked information, NSA is targeting everyone who is using the system or just is affiliated with targeted users. However, apart from its evil image, TOR is a legal system with mainly benign intentions. Apart from its infamy, it can be considered as an essential tool for security purposes. As the government continues surveillance on people’s lives, TOR has acted as a safe haven for many people, especially those who suffer from stringent censorship. TOR users have risen to over 2.5 million. It is the network used to gain access to the Darknet.

The Future

As ICT continues to dominate in the present world and more people desire to join the internet anonymously, the popularity of the surface web may decrease and such networks as the Deep Web will thrive. However, through collaboration, the government will do all it can to counter the advancement of these sites. The Military's DARPA has currently developed a technology known as Memex. The primary aim of this technology is to map connections between all illicit advertisements given by suspected human traffickers. The project has run for twelve months, and the government is working with at least seventeen contractors to ensure that activities on the Deep Web can be monitored. Considering such attempts of the government, anonymous browsing may not be as private as users currently believe.

DARKNET

What is Darknet?

Darknet and the Deep Web are two common terms that are often confused. While the Deep Web denotes all components of the internet which regular search engines cannot index, Darknet can be understood to be a part of the Deep Web. Darknet is a form of routed allocation of an anonymous IP address that is not discoverable. It can also be designated as a variation of a VPN but with additional measures put in place to ensure users remain anonymous. Popular Darknets include such networks as TOR, 12P, and Freenet. Although communication on Darknet is believed to be hidden, this is not the case because, in 2011, the FBI was able to take down the Silk Road. In October the same year, a hacktivist group Anonymous was able to break into the Darknet network and took down a website hosting service known as Freedom Hosting, which was a home of child pornography. One of the easiest ways to access Darknet is to use TOR. However, tech-savvy users may find other different ways of accessing Darknet through the Tor website. It is easy just like installing a new browser: it is necessary just to click on the TOR website and one can access the site and browse anonymously.

Bitcoin

Bitcoin is a consensus network that permits usage of a new digital payment system. It is the first decentralized peer-to-peer payment network powered by users, and it has no central authority or middlemen. From a Bitcoin user perspective, Bitcoins are just like cash but on the internet. Bitcoin has become a renowned Internet form of triple entry bookkeeping system. It was first implemented through a concept described by Wei Dai in 1998 as cryptocurrency. The first bitcoin was, thus, published in 2009 in a cryptography mailing list by Nakamoto. However, Nakamoto abandoned the project in 2010 without saying much about it. However, even with his exit, a number of people using Bitcoin has increased over the years. Unlike it is the case with the currency in an economy where the government takes central place and controls its trading, there is no single user who can control Bitcoin. It is controlled by all users around the world. Although developers can improve the software functionality, they do not have the advantage of forcing any form of change in the Bitcoin protocol. Users can choose the version they want. Bitcoin has become immensely popular in the last years, and a growing number of businesses started using Bitcoins to transact. Brick and mortar businesses from all over the world, law firms, apartments, and popular online services such as Word press, Name cheap, and Reddit are all using Bitcoin. Despite the fact that it is a relatively new phenomenon, its usage is growing at a tremendous pace. The value of Bitcoin in circulation in August 2013 was estimated to be over U.S $1.5 billion. However, the use of Bitcoin to facilitate illegal business is of great concern to the government. Illegal dealings, such as buying of drugs, fake documents, and human trafficking, are facilitated by Bitcoin.

How Anonymity Works

When the news spread that NSA was spying on peoples’ network traffic, most people become worried about their online privacy. One of the most popular choices of people wishing to remain anonymous online is using TOR. Apart from users who cover their tracks online for the fun of it, there are those whose online anonymity is a treasured aspect of their business. Online anonymity is highly valued by terrorists, human traffickers, politicians, pornographers, and drug kingpins. In order to remain anonymous online, many users also utilize the services of The Onion Router Tor. As earlier mentioned, this is a network that disguises the identity of a user by moving the user’s traffic across Tor servers and then encrypting the traffic left by the user so that it does not fall back. Anyone spying on a Tor user will only see traffic originating from random nodes on the Tor network as opposed to the user’s computer. Reports on online anonymity indicate that 86% of people using the internet have undertaken steps to mask or remove their tracks or digital footprints. In addition, 55% of internet users have tried to avoid observation from specific people, the government, or their organization. However, according to Rainie et al. (2013), although 37% of the surveyed internet users confirmed that it was possible to remain completely anonymous while on the internet, still 59% of the interviewed reported that it was not possible. However, according to Tor experts, it is possible to stay anonymous online, but spying agencies like NSA utilize the weaknesses on the Firefox browser to track users.

SILK ROAD

Brief Overview of how Silk Road Worked

Silk Road was a website that facilitated drug business and other criminal activities such as pornography and human trafficking. It was an online black market founded by Mr. Ulbricht. As an element of the larger Deep Web, Silk Road operated as a Tor network. It had generated $8 million in monthly sales and was used by over 150, 000 customers and vendor. Powered by Tor, Silk Road allowed sellers and buyers to conduct their illegal transaction anonymously. The platform offered users an electronic space where vendors could post their merchandise, such as, for example, fake documents and hard drugs like cocaine. Silk Road was just like any other online retailing service, only it operated in the Deep Web. Apart from the cost of merchandise or services transacted, the site would charge a small fee equivalent to a shipping cost of the purchase. After the arrest of Blake Benthall, another operator referred to as the “Dread Pirate Roberts” took over the site. The site changed commission ranging from 5% to 8% in every transaction, and this amounted to approximately $400, 000 per month.

What Can Be Sold There?

In the courtroom hearing, the FBI said that Silk Road had a listing of more than 13, 000 illegal and controlled substances. Marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and other illegal hard drugs were posted by vendors. Fake Ids and other documents, firearms, and pornography were easily available on Silk Road 2.0. Apart from merchandise, Silk Road 2.0 vendors offered different illegal services such as hitman services. According to the Manhattan U.S Attorney Preet Bharara, in any arrangement, Silk Road is a road to prison for any criminal or person intending to follow the footsteps of the alleged criminals. The Attorney assured the criminals at large that the government would return as many times as possible until all noxious online bazaar would be shut down.

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Twitter/YouTube/Facebook

How Terrorist use Social Media

Terrorists from different parts of the world have realized the power of the social media. Extremists are increasingly using social media to communicate, recruit, raise funds, and radicalize certain ideas. Social media networks, especially Facebook and Twitter, have developed to be the new regulator hubs for criminals and terrorists. Robert Hannigan (a new director of GCHQ) said that Isil radicals have exceedingly incorporated the web in their terrorism activities. Terrorists are using the social media to intimidate those condemning extremism and inspire those intending to join the “holy war” from all over the world. Isil has been cited as a terror group that highly uses YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, and Tumblr. The postings of this terror group reach almost 40,000 tweets in the day. Although a social media like Twitter has suspended over 1,000 accounts, terrorists keep opening new accounts. YouTube has also been used by the terrorists to post amateur videos, which were dedicated to their foot soldiers.  One of the most successful ventures by the ISIS is the creation of an Arabic-Language Twitter app known as The Dawn of Glad Tidings (Dawn). The app is the ISIS official product and has gained popularity because it is marketed by some of ISIS top Jihadists.

Why They Cannot Be Traced?

The power of terrorism on social media is far-reaching as more and more youths travel from all over the world to join different terrorist groups. Nevertheless, important inquiries continue to be raised on why terrorists are not traced on social media. While this may appear simple in the eye of the public, it has proven to be a challenge for intelligence agencies. Terrorists are endowed with resources, and thus they have acquired high-tech communication technologies that make tracing back difficult. In addition, terrorists are able to cover their online footprints by using applications that offer anonymity. Using private networks, terrorists make anonymous posts and it becomes difficult to trace them.

P2P

What is Peer-to-Peer?

Peer-to-peer (P2P) is a form of decentralized communication model where each party has the same abilities and either can initiate a communication session. Unlike the internet based client/server model, where a user makes a request and the server completes it, P2P network based model allows each node to function as both a server and client. For a long time, P2P systems have been used to provide anonymous routing of network traffic, distributed storage, and other functions. Within P2P, there are three categories of systems:

  • In centralized system, a peer connects to the server that coordinates and manages communication. An example includes the CPU sharing applications -SETI@Home.
  • In brokered systems, peers connect to a server to discover other peers, and then manage communication themselves.
  • In decentralized system, peers run independently. Here, the discovery is decentralized and the communication takes place between the peers.

When the World Wide Web was created, its main aim was to provide Peer-to-peer communication where each user could be an active contributor and editor. However, P2P was narrowed down only to mean direct communication between nodes or users involved. Skype is a form of P2P - a system that connects all users in a network so as to take part in a traffic routing, processing, and bandwidth-intensive tasks. Skype successfully uses P2P by leveraging all available resources in the network instead of establishing a centralized network resource. Whatsapp is a messaging system that runs on the data network and not on SMS channel. Therefore, it is not a P2P because it requires a centralized server to connect to other users.

 In the current ICT era, keeping personal data secure is the main priority for many; therefore, encryption software has gained prominence in the past years.

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