Navigating Shadows: Uncovering the Unexpected Online Presence of Politicians

In an era when the digital is as real and important as the physical, it has turned out that some of Europe’s most respected public figures have been hanging out in the dark web – the not-quite-secret part of the internet that’s home to hacker forums and is almost impossible to navigate without specialised equipment. According to recent ‘leaks’ from this dark world, Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) and British Members of Parliament (MPs) have been active there. The German newspaper Bild first reported that MEPs owned set-up laptops that could access the dark web with impunity, unlike the computers of ordinary citizens. The revelation has spawned headlines about politicians’ security concerns, prompting questions about what kind of shenanigans they’ve been getting up to online.

The Dark Web Debrief

Before we get into the implications of this finding, it’s worthwhile to explain what the dark web is. As commonly imagined, the dark web is the dark underside of the internet, requiring special tools and knowhow to access. It’s also where infamous activities on the web take place. But as the popular press often reminds us, the dark web is also where whistleblowers and human rights activists ‘hide out’ to anonymously speak their truths.

The Leak Unleashed

The leak stems from RaidForums, a dark web marketplace that was taken down by law enforcement in 2022, and inside it we find breadcrumbs to the online fringes of at least 15 MEPs and various British MPs. Account names, email addresses and IP addresses were outed, but not names. This is not about outing anyone. It is about privacy – but not as we may understand it.

HOME of Concerns and Conversations

The Political Web Entangled

The creepily increasing presence of elected officials in the dark web is fraught with issues. On one side, there is the negative connotation that dark web activity is synonymous with illegal practices, on the other, the great need for anonymity by whistleblowers and those who wish they could safely speak out. The mere notion of this trend points to the need to craft an informed, intricate evaluation of online activity, especially in regards to those elected to high societal office.

Transparency and Accountability at HOME

Calling for scrutiny, Daniel Freund, an MEP and web-policy specialist, said: ‘This is a very serious problem. It must be investigated.’ He’s not alone in saying so. The case seems to be an invitation to scrutinise the online activities of public figures.

Securing the HOME Front

While the incident tears back a layer of exceptionalism, it also serves as a call to strengthen cyberdefences. ‘This is another really stark example of highly targeted cyber operations against a targeted individual,’ says John Scott-Railton, a senior researcher at the Citizen Lab. ‘Elected officials are highly targeted individuals. Every one of these officials.

May 30, 2024
<< Go Back