Security Market Segment LS
Friday, 16 February 2018 12:05

Students attracted to the dark side of the Internet

Dr Rafiqul Islam, running the dark web course at Charles Sturt University Dr Rafiqul Islam, running the dark web course at Charles Sturt University

IT Masters, an industry-based organisation partnering with Charles Sturt University to provide online Masters degrees to IT professionals, is claiming the dark web has attracted unprecedented interest as a subject in a new course at CSU.

According to IT Masters’ director, Martin Hale, there was a “robust debate” within CSU’s School of Computing and Mathematics as to whether a course on the dark web — an overlay network that uses the Internet but requires specific software, configurations or authorisation to access — should be offered.
“When we proposed running this course, we expected to come up against resistance because of the sensitivity of the subject matter,” Hale said. “In the end, however, the school decided that it was important that graduates had an in-depth knowledge of how the cyber-crime economy functions.

“The dark web is a growing, hidden economy where anonymous marketplaces trade in everything from illegal drugs, hacking tools, ransomware scams, personal data, forged documents and industrial secrets.

“It is a complex, mysterious and dynamic domain where cyber criminals create, share, buy and sell their wares.”

According to Hale, around $72 billion of illegal activity per year involves bitcoin — the largest of multiple cyber currencies — and the majority of that is transacted or connected in some form or manner to activity on the dark web. “It is also where the worst of business continuity risks emerge such as malware and denial of service attacks,” he says.

“Every security manager for every IT organisation would be negligent not to have some understanding of the dark web and its potential to impact their operations,” Hale said.

“One of the best ways to start effectively combating dark web threats and cracking down on the illegal marketplaces is to increase the pool of people who have a detailed understanding of what it is and how it operates.

“This dark web subject has obviously struck a chord with the growing number of people registered to complete the IT Masters/CSU Cyber Security Masters degree as over 80%  of them have enrolled in it as their first subject.”

The CSU dark web course is only available to post-graduate students and is being run by Dr Rafiqul Islam, leader of Cyber Security Research Team in CSU’s School of Computing and Mathematics, Faculty of Business, Justice and Behavioural Sciences.

Hale says Dr Islam is a highly-decorated network, cyber, and cloud security academic with an extensive body of work in defining and combating malicious malware attacks, and has been involved with more than 100 published cyber security papers and has presented at over 50 conferences globally on the subject.

“In 2017, the US Department of Defence requested US$8 billion in funding to address national security issues relating to internet crime,” Dr Islam said. “There is a massive and growing dark economy functioning behind a veil of secrecy enabled by advanced technology and ruthless cyber criminals.

“This dark web subject for CSU students will provide a broad overview of emerging digital threats and computer crimes. There will be an emphasis on cyber-stalking, hacktivism, fraud and identity theft, and attacks on critical infrastructure as well as the cross-disciplinary approaches to the dark web in the context of emerging crime threats.

“We will be analysing the online underground economy, the digital currencies it thrives on and cybercrime on the dark web. Students will also delve into the technological and social engineering methods used to undertake such crimes and they will also study dark web forensics and mitigating techniques.”

The CSU dark web syllabus covers the following topics:

  •     Introduction to the dark web and its various threats
  •     Malicious dark net
  •     Data analysis of Web content
  •     Dark web forensics
  •     Open Source intelligence

CSU says that after successful completion of the dark web course, students should have the following learning outcomes:

  •     Be able to differentiate between theoretical and cross-disciplinary approaches to the dark web;
  •     Be able to analyse the evolution of the dark web in the context of emerging crime threats;
  •     Be able to distinguish and classify the forms of cybercriminal activity through the dark web, and the technological and social engineering methods used to undertake such cries;
  •     Be able to investigate assumptions about the behaviour and role of offenders and victims in the dark web;
  •     Be able to analyse and assess the impact of cybercrime, along with the mitigating techniques used to defend against cyber crime; and
  •     Be able to discuss, analyse and apply dark web-related research and applications.

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Peter Dinham - retired in 2020. He is a veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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