RAND Europe ‘Shines a light on the dark web’ at Cambridge Festival of Ideas

Giacomo Persi Paoli and Stijn Hoorens at Cambridge Festival of Ideas 2018

Giacomo Persi Paoli speaks at the podium. Fellow panellists Stijn Hoorens and Steve Welsh are seated at the table. Catherine McShane, seated next to Persi Paoli, chaired the event.

Photo by domininkas.com / used with permission

The challenges of the dark web were explored in a discussion hosted by RAND Europe at Cambridge University’s Festival of Ideas on Monday, 15 October.

About 150 people attended the event, held at the Old Divinity School at St John’s College, which focused on a hidden part of the internet that allows anonymous users to pursue illegal activities, such as selling drugs and weapons.

A panel of experts looked at the size and scope of the issue relating to the illicit trade of drugs and firearms, and what could be done to manage its potential dangers. Afterwards the audience had the opportunity to ask questions.

Giacomo Persi Paoli, Associate Research Group Director at RAND Europe in the Defence, Security and Infrastructure Group, introduced the audience to cryptomarkets – the black markets on the dark web – and revealed what is available for trade, with a focus on illegal firearms. Giacomo led the RAND Europe research on Behind the curtain: the illicit trade of firearms, explosives and ammunition on the dark web.

Stijn Hoorens, Head of RAND Europe's Brussels Office and an Associate Director of RAND Europe, looked at how the dark web has facilitated the trade in illicit drugs and how the findings converge and differ between firearms and drugs.

The evening was concluded by Steve Welsh, who is a Senior Manager at the National Crime Agency (NCA) in the UK and heads up the Dark Web Intelligence Collection and Exploitation department. He spoke about the evolving threat of dark web markets and shared some of the UK’s success in combatting the problem.