What do whistleblowers, identity thieves, cybersecurity researchers and cocaine dealers share in common? They all rely on the dark net – a subject that Fraud Force London keynote speaker Jamie Bartlett knows inside and out.

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A respected cybersecurity journalist, Bartlett authored The Dark Net, which explores the Internet’s hidden corners and the characters who inhabit them. He’ll offer the very latest developments on the anonymous web and how cyber criminals exploit it, especially as it relates to payment fraud and identity theft. Bartlett also will give Fraud Force attendees a look at the future of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technologies, the destructive potential of artificial intelligence and ‘automated crime,’ and what can be done about these threats.

As the Summit approaches, he offered iovation a quick preview of his keynote:

Q: What exactly does the dark net refer to?

It’s a small part of the web that can only be accessed through the Tor Network. This was originally a project by U.S. Naval intelligence to obscure users’ locations by encrypting IP addresses and routing traffic through multiple computers around the world. It’s now open-source. The technology can obfuscate users’ identities on the regular web and allows them to browse roughly 50,000 Tor-only sites that use the .onion domain. That’s the dark net. Because those sites’ users are completely anonymous, it’s really the wild west when it comes to illegal activity online.

Q: How do these sites enable identity theft, fraud and other cybercrime?

Sensitive data is stolen every day. Login credentials, banking details, personal information, security exploits: we all know this stuff is out there. Part of what makes the dark net so powerful is just how easily sensitive information like this can change hands.

For example, I studied a dark net marketplace for illegal drugs that conducted more than $1 billion in business before it was shut down. It was remarkable how the efficiency and reputation of that site mirrored legitimate ecommerce platforms like Amazon or eBay. I reviewed more than 120,000 pieces of feedback from customers, and more than 95 percent gave their transactions a five-out-of-five rating. Other dark net sites make the sale of stolen data just as seamless.

Q: Where do cryptocurrencies fit in?

Blockchain-based digital currencies like Bitcoin make transactions on the dark net possible. Obviously, a criminal can’t just hand a stack of cash to a dark net operator in exchange for a list of stolen Social Security numbers. Instead, they rely on cryptocurrencies that can be transmitted easily online without exchanging the information required for a credit card or bank transfer.

Transactions between Bitcoin wallets are recorded in a public ledger, though, and many dark net users employ a ‘tumbling service’ as an extra precaution. That funnels hundreds of bitcoin through a single address where they’re mixed up before delivering the assigned amounts to their recipients. It’s a sort of money laundering operation for cryptocurrency.

Q: What’s another trend in cybersecurity you’ll be watching in the next few years?

If you look at the disruptive potential of artificial intelligence, you’ll find it’s not just companies like Google or Tesla pursuing this technology. Bad actors will be using AI, too. Networks already face threats from hackers using automation to test systems for known vulnerabilities. As AI becomes more powerful, security professionals will be challenged to adapt as quickly as computers that are capable of learning from their mistakes. Automated hacking also has the potential to rapidly target the most vulnerable victims of a data breach or even engage in social engineering to generate feedback from unsuspecting users.

Register for Fraud Force London, June 4-June 6 to hear much more from Jamie Bartlett.