Demystifying the Darknet through Discourse across Domains

In a joint collaboration with Dr. Kai Denker and Dr. Martin Steinebach of TU Darmstadt and Fraunhofer SIT, and supported by Germany’s Federal Ministry of Education and Research, Dr. Marcel Schaefer explores the risks and opportunities provided by darknet technologies through the PANDA (Parallel Structures, Forms of Activities and User Behavior in the Darknet) project. The 5-year PANDA project brings together experts across multiple disciplines to investigate how society at large can work to improve security and deter cybercrime in the Darknet while ensuring its members maintain the civil liberties that allow them the freedom to communicate anonymously. Through this exploration emerged “Darknets as Tools for Cyber Warfare,” a chapter from the book Information Technology for Peace and Security - IT Applications and Infrastructures in Conflicts, Crises, War, and Peace by Dr. Christian Reuter.

Information Technology for Peace and Security offers an introduction to Information Technology (IT) with regard to peace, conflict, and security research, a topic that it approaches from the natural science, technical, and computer science perspectives. Following an initial review of the fundamental roles of IT in connection with peace, conflict, and security, the contributing authors address the rise of cyber conflicts via information warfare, cyber espionage, cyber defense, and darknets. In “Darknets as Tools for Cyber Warfare” specifically, the philosophical aspects of these topics are linked with the technical and formal backgrounds of the “darknet” phenomenon, bringing to light new perspectives to this topic in particular but as well to the topic of the book in general.

Published by SpringerLink, Information Technology for Peace and Security facilitates and encourages further discussion in this largely unexplored area of research, providing a unique outlook into the complex nuances of cyber activity. The broad and far-reaching concepts of Information Technology for Peace and Security provides ingestible dialogues for experts and students in academia, professionals in both technical and philosophical fields, and the layperson with a deep intellectual curiosity of IT topics relevant to our society today.

For more information about the Panda project, visit

To read the “Darknets as Tools for Cyber Warfare” chapter and obtain a copy of the Information Technology for Peace and Security book, visit

Dr. Kai Denker holds a Ph.D. in Philosophy and an M.A. in Computer Science, Dr. Marcel Schäfer (Schaefer) holds a Ph.D. in Computer Science and an M.A. in Mathematics, and Dr. Martin Steinebach holds both a Ph.D. and M.A. in Computer Science. Dr. Christian Reuter, Ph.D., is a Professor of Science and Technology for Peace and Security at the Department of Computer Science, with a secondary appointment at the Department History and Social Sciences. All hail from the reputable Technical University of Darmstadt.

Denker K., Schäfer M., Steinebach M. (2019). “Darknets as Tools for Cyber Warfare,” Information Technology for Peace and Security. Springer Vieweg, Wiesbaden.



Darknets serve as licit privacy networks to enable activists, journalists, and others to communicate anonymously and avoid censorship. Yet Darknets also allow for illicit file sharing and trafficking. Besides much-discussed narcotics and child abuse material, goods and services offered on Darknet markets include counterfeit currency, forged documents, weaponry, malicious software, zero-day exploits, and hacking services. Hence, Darknets are a major concern, not only for civilian security institutions like law enforcement, but also for national and international security. In the context of cyber warfare, Darknets enable or support several practices: impeding attribution of attacks by fostering anonymity, trading of cyber-arms and their building blocks like zero-day exploits, providing simple and sophisticated hacking services, and dissemination of information from secrets to fake news. In this chapter, we explain the technology behind Tor, a widely used Darknet client, provide an overview of common Darknet phenomena and discuss them in context of cyber warfare. Finally, we analyze these discourses within the framework of critical securitization studies.

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