Ancient Artifacts vs. Digital Artifacts: New Tools for Unmasking the Sale of Illicit Antiquities on the Dark Web
March 26, 2018
Since the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS, also known as Daesh and ISIL) in 2014, antiquities have been a widely publicized source of funding for what has become one of the most technologically savvy terrorist organizations of the modern era. The globalization of technology and rise of popularity in cryptocurrencies has changed the face of black-market trade and the actors that carry out these crimes. While art and antiquities have long served as a market with susceptibilities to laundering, the emergence of Dark Web markets, identification-masking software, and untraceable cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin have opened new doors to potential vulnerabilities. The anonymity that is offered by these technologies acts as a roadblock for authorities, while attracting the likes of terrorists and transnational criminals. Investigative research using cyber security platforms to identify digital artifacts connected to potential traffickers provides the opportunity to unmask the seemingly untraceable actors behind these activities. The evidence of illicit antiquities trafficking on the Dark Web displayed in this article can generate a new discussion on how and where to study black-market antiquities to gain needed insight into combating the illicit trade online and the transnational criminal groups it may finance.
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