How Human Trafficking Occurs On The Dark Web - Cybersecurity Concepts

Written by: Nearchos Nearchou



Time to read 6 min

Modern slavery, also known as human trafficking, is a grim reality of the 21st-century global landscape. This type of crime is considered the third most prevalent crime worldwide. On any given day, around 40.3 million people were victims of modern slavery, 4.8 million of them because of “forced sexual exploitation.” Modern slavery deprives millions of their dignity and freedom and leaves them vulnerable to abuse and violence. It even threatens international security and peace. Additionally, modern slavery benefits criminal organizations and terrorist networks and undermines the law and world order. 


While traditional channels of modern slavery still exist, the Dark Web allows criminals to traffic a greater number of victims across larger geographical boundaries. Utilizing coercion, violence, and fictitious promises of well-paying work, modern slavery involves luring individuals into labor, enslavement, and unwanted sexual acts. Blackmailing, threats, fear of their traffickers, and language barriers usually deter victims from seeking help. The figure below shows the primary forms of human trafficking.


Primary forms of human trafficking

Figure 1: Primary forms of human trafficking

Below is a list of statistics related to online human trafficking.

  • According to the National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), 78% of victims of child sex abuse online are female. 

  • Two out of every three youngsters sold for sex in the United States are victims of online trafficking.

  • Every month, there are more than 8,500 sexual advertisements placed online in the United Kingdom.

  • Every month, the Philippine Department of Justice gets more than 3,000 reports of internet child sex trafficking.

The Dark Web is the perfect venue for human traffickers because it makes it simple and affordable for them to purchase, move, and take advantage of helpless men, women, girls, and boys. This shadowy corner of the Internet, which is home to secret, password-protected websites, provides both users and traffickers with a great level of anonymity


Additionally, compared to traditional types of trafficking, Dark Web human trafficking carries a lower chance of being discovered and prosecuted, which makes it a more alluring and lucrative illicit enterprise. Contrary to other illegal industries, like the drug trade, human trafficking allows criminals to make thousands of dollars every day from just one child by repeatedly selling and abusing them. The figure below shows the most dominant forms of human trafficking among detected trafficked victims.


Most common human trafficking forms among detected victims

Figure 2: Most common human trafficking forms among detected victims


Dark Web human trafficking is an illicit activity that mostly consists of three elements:

  1. Recruiting and grooming of helpless victims,

  2. Promotion of illicit services, and

  3. Payment for services and business costs.

Viewers of child exploitation content are able to see live stream videos of children being sexually abused. During these live stream videos, the viewers can make real-time requests. While the abuse takes place, consumers can buy instant gratification based on their sexual fetishes. This trend is also known as “Molestation On-Demand” (MOD). Furthermore, one example of globalism’s impact is the emerging trend of child sex tourism through webcams. It involves affluent consumers—typically from the United States of America or Western Europe—who essentially abuse youngsters living abroad.


One of the most notorious human trafficking gangs, known as the “Black Death Group” (BDG),  also operates on the Dark Web. Allegedly, this group offers a variety of services, including the sale of sex slaves, the distribution of drugs and weapons, and bomb manufacturing. One of their disclaimers says that they do not sell girls who are terminally ill, pregnant, have sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), or are young mothers. One case that got considerable attention was the kidnapping of the British model Chloe Ayling. According to reports, a Black Death Group member lured Ms Ayling to a fake studio in Milan, injected her with ketamine, and took her to an isolated place where she was tied for six days. A few days later, the criminal was captured and faced trial in Italy. The figure below shows some content of one of the group’s alleged websites.


One of Black Death Group’s alleged websites

Figure 3: One of Black Death Group’s alleged websites


Efforts to reduce Dark Web human trafficking

Human trafficking is a kind of crime that affects societies in all countries of the world. ECPAT is the leading anti-trafficking organization in the United States and it belongs to a network of organizations that expands and operates in more than 100 countries. All these organizations work together to combat the commercial sexual exploitation of children. ECPAT-USA seeks to protect every single child’s human right to grow with freedom and away from the threat of sexual exploitation and trafficking. ECPAT achieves this mainly through advocacy, awarenesseducation, and legislation. By using targeted advertisements, ECPAT promotes corporate responsibility in the private sector with a strong focus on tourism. Additionally, ECPAT empowers young individuals to take the lead against modern slavery by equipping them with the tools and knowledge necessary to help them become activists against human trafficking.


Modern slavery has gone underground and digital during the past ten years. By increasing the options and connections that traffickers have to enlist and abuse people, technology, and globalization help human trafficking spread. Human trafficking groups don't follow the regulations as other criminals do. Traffickers, who are frequently associated with global, transnational organized crime, employ all the strategies described in the "Dark Web book" to evade identification and legal action, including cutting-edge encryption. Additionally, they are able to blend into the background by frequently changing between profiles and websites. The government is responding, though. They are capable of scanning all facets of the Internet, including the Dark Web and covert TOR services, by utilizing cutting-edge artificial intelligence algorithms and big data technologies.


Big tech companies' monitoring software enables law enforcement to spot human trafficking on the Dark Web and even communicate with traffickers completely anonymously, generating evidence that might be used against them in court. Big tech companies' online intelligence platforms can be utilized to give real-time content monitoring with the ability to scan photos and texts, which provides unequaled situational awareness, with the seamless integration of advanced data sources. While some posts may appear to be positive to the untrained eye, media intelligence platforms and online research tools can offer useful information in locating suspects and real-world risks of human trafficking.


Conclusion to Dark Web Human Trafficking

Massive efforts have been made to combat human trafficking over the past few decades. Law enforcement has access to an electronic setting where agents can perform forensic investigations thanks to the Dark Web's characteristics. Law enforcement can search through incredibly huge data sets using cutting-edge methods to look for trends, patterns, and connections that relate to human trafficking on this nefarious side of the Internet. Cases of dark web human trafficking frequently cross jurisdictional boundaries, necessitating coordination between regional, national, international, and local law enforcement organisations.

Nearchos Nearchou

Nearchos Nearchou is a determined person and 1st Class BSc (Hons) Computer Science and MSc Cyber Security graduate. He is a big tech-lover and spent several years exploring new innovations in the IT field. Driven by his passion for learning, he is pursuing a career in the Cyber Security world. Passionate about learning new skills and information that can be used for further personal and career development. Finally, he is the author of the book “Combating Crime On The Dark Web”.

Q1: What is the Dark Web, and how does it contribute to human trafficking?

The Dark Web provides traffickers with anonymity, facilitating the purchase, movement, and exploitation of victims globally, making it a preferred platform for human trafficking.

Q2: What are the primary forms of human trafficking discussed in the article?

The article highlights various forms, including forced sexual exploitation, child sex abuse online, and the operations of criminal groups involved in sex slavery, drug distribution, and weapons trafficking on the Dark Web.

Q3: How prevalent is online human trafficking, and what are the statistics mentioned in the article?

The article cites statistics, such as 78% of child sex abuse victims online being female, two out of three US youngsters sold for sex falling victim to online trafficking, and over 8,500 sexual advertisements placed online monthly in the UK.

Q4: What are some examples of criminal groups operating on the Dark Web, as discussed in the article?

The "Black Death Group" is highlighted, offering services like the sale of sex slaves, drug distribution, weapons trafficking, and engaging in illicit activities on the Dark Web.

Q5: How are organizations like ECPAT-USA contributing to the fight against human trafficking?

ECPAT-USA focuses on advocacy, awareness, education, and legislation to combat commercial sexual exploitation of children. They promote corporate responsibility, especially in the tourism sector, and empower young individuals to become activists against human trafficking.

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