interpol bitcoin cryptocurrency dark web
Interpol's new bitcoin-like virtual currency will be used in a simulation-based training gameReuters

In an effort to fight online crimes perpetrated on the dark web, international police agency Interpol has created its own cryptocurrency, as well as a simulated version of a market place similar to the notorious Silk Road. The training initiative is thought to be the first of its kind and could be a precursor to a significant international crackdown on dark web activities.

During a recent five-day training course, participants role-played as vendors, buyers and administrators of black market websites on the dark web. Live law enforcement "take downs" of the simulated sites were also carried out to help improve the understanding of the technical infrastructure of the Tor network.

What is the dark web?

The dark web is a section of the internet that requires specialist software tools to access, such as the Tor browser. Originally designed to protect privacy, it has since become associated with illegal activities.

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It is often confused with the deep web, which is a vast section of the open internet not indexed by search engines like Google. The deep web comprises around 95% of the internet.

"Darknets are fast emerging as the preferred trading venue for organised crime networks and individuals to carry out illicit activities, with cryptocurrencies the preferred medium for paying for these criminal services," said Madan Oberoi, the director of cyber innovation and outreach unit at Interpol's Global Complex for Innovation (IGCI).

"The specialised training provided by Interpol equips law enforcement with the understanding and tools they need to take very real action targeting criminals in the virtual world."

The training is set to continue in November in Brussels, while the agency will also look at law enforcement policy surrounding existing virtual currencies.

The IGCI will also be reaching out to companies and organisations in both public and private sectors in order to better tackle cybercrime issues.

"Cybercrime is a domain where information and expertise lie outside the domain of law enforcement agencies," Oberoi said. "We have to reach out to other stakeholders... consult each other and work closely."