Specialist digital detectives at Northamptonshire Police are fighting a hi-tech war on drug dealers and child abusers lurking on the so-called ‘dark web’.
The force uses specialist software to allow investigators to access obscure sites where criminals are able to interact using private networks that keep key information secret.
Detective Sergeant Jason Cullum said: “During our latest week of action focusing on drug harm, we thought it would be useful to shine a light on the work we are doing in relation to tackling criminality on the dark web.
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“We have invested in new software and more officers are receiving specialist training which will enable then to tackle criminals who think — wrongly — that they are operating beyond the reach of the law.
“Northamptonshire is in the early stages of this journey, but our approach is becoming ever more sophisticated.”
Many believe the dark web is a complex, secretive place involving encryption and hackers, where child abusers and drug dealers work anonymously with little chance of getting caught.
In fact, it is no more complicated than using apps on your phone — but without Google to help find sites. Users need exact addresses or links to connect.
It uses a browser designed help those living under by repressive regimes to communicate with the outside world but also allows criminals to remain anonymous.
In March this year, a 57-year-old Northampton man was jailed for 30 years after indecent photographs of children taken by the prolific abuser were discovered on the dark web.
Local officers teamed up with the National Crime and the FBI to nail Keith McFadden, previously of Abington, over 33 counts of sexual abuse against six boys aged between seven and 15 over a 23-year period from 1996 to 2019.
Last year, four members of a drugs operation worth £2.7 million were jailed for a combined 40 years after being thwarted by police.
Northampton Crown Court heard how the gang used the dark web to sell drugs from a storage unit in the town using cryptocurrency, encrypted spreadsheets, hard drive cleaners and payments through untraceable cryptocurrency.