Richard Huckle
Richard Huckle has been dubbed Britain's worst paedophile

Richard Huckle has been jailed for life after admitting 71 charges of sexual abuse against children in Malaysia. He used the dark web to post more than 20,000 sickening images of children as young as six months old being sexually abused from 2006 to 2014, using a crowdfunding website to finance the abuse.

Judge Peter Rook QC said Huckle was a "relentless" child abuser, and called a manual Huckle wrote about the attacks – entitled Paedophiles And Poverty: Child Lover Guide – "truly evil" . Huckle bragged about his lust for children on a paedophile site and said poor children were "easier" to abuse.

Questions have understandably been raised as to how he was able to go undetected by police for so long. The National Crime Agency has since referred itself to the Independent Police Complaints Commission after criticisms that it should have done more to stop the abuse.

Paedophiles and other deviants have been a part of humanity since the dawn of time, but their murky existence has never been as well-publicised as now. The reason for that is because everything has gone global. What was once a local problem has long since progressed beyond even being a national issue – the abuse of children now has no borders. And that is all thanks to the internet.

Despite the wealth of opportunities presented by the nice, friendly internet viewed via the rose-tinted spectacles provided by the likes of Google, there is a much seedier side. It's a side hidden from view, an area that dwarfs the sanitised web by quite some margin, on which some of the most depraved human beings can be found.

The so-called dark web is home to all manner of miscreants, from hitmen to drug sellers and child abusers. So why hasn't it been shut down, and why have the scum of mankind not been hung, drawn or at least locked away for a very, very long time?

There are two primary answers to that. One is technical in nature, the other far less black and white.

The main reason why the worst of our species are able to continue their sick business with impunity is the nature of the dark web itself. Residing on web pages and servers encrypted into obscurity and not indexed by the search engines you and I use, they can typically only be reached via tools such as the Tor browser which, even today, is not something the average person has even heard of, much less used.

And even if you do run the gauntlet of the dark web, you're hardly likely to find out who runs the sites you find there – the encryption used is strong enough to baffle both law enforcement agencies and government spooks alike.

Hence bringing the bad guys to book relies on the old-fashioned methods of good police work, as in the case of Richard Huckle who, ultimately, was nabbed via observational skills and a freckle.

Such difficulties beg another question; namely why don't the authorities bring this filthy house of cards down in its entirety? The answer to that lies in the history of the dark web itself.

While it has a reputation for heinous criminal activity, that's not all it's used for. The anonymity of the dark web is not just a veil that protects the guilty, it also falls over the identities of the innocent.

For a long, long time, Tor and its ilk have been used by whistle-blowers, missionaries and journalists who needed the privacy afforded by the dark web to share secrets and do their jobs.

Unilaterally destroying the dark web would do grave harm to a large number of innocent people who are quickly running out of alternative forms of private communication in a world of increasing government surveillance, which continues to abhor the use of encryption in any form.

So, as much as right-minded people would love to see the back of the dregs of the hidden internet, the means of shutting it down are not so clear.

For now, at least, we will simply have to trust the world's law enforcement agencies to do their jobs as best they can in the constant battle to protect us, and our children, from those who would do us harm.

Lee Munson is a security researcher at