Web Application Development: Building a Site to Scrape the Dark Web; Regulation of Government Use of Remote Access Searches: A Case Study of the 2016 Amendment to Federal Rule of Criminal Procedure 41

Bagalkot, Neha, School of Engineering and Applied Science, University of Virginia
JACQUES, RICHARD, EN-Engineering and Society, University of Virginia
Vrugtman, Rosanne, EN-Comp Science Dept, University of Virginia

My technical project and STS research are loosely related in that they both involve the dark web. The dark web is a section of the internet composed of unindexed sites that can only be accessed through anonymizing software. Although the dark web can be useful for those requiring confidentiality, criminals can also take advantage of their anonymity to engage in illicit activities, such as leaking sensitive data. My technical project involved contributing to a website designed to allow security analysts to monitor the dark web for data leakage regarding their company. For my STS research, I chose to examine the ethics of governmental regulation of the dark web, focusing on a case study of the 2016 amendment to Rule 41 of the Federal Rules of Criminal Procedure (FRCP), granting the FBI greater jurisdictional authority in tracking dark web criminals.
My technical project involved contributing to the development of a website intended to scrape the dark web for keywords inputted by users. Built in HTML, CSS, ReactJS, and TypeScript, the site allows users to input keywords, displays results of corresponding data found on the dark web, and formats these results into technical reports using previously provided templates. I worked on this project through an internship over the course of two summers, and contributed various features to the site. Some minor features I added included the alphabetization of drop-down menus, the visual enhancement of data entry tags, the refinement of database queries, and more. I also contributed two major features, which were the addition of extensive testing infrastructure, as well as the addition of a page allowing users to input YARA rules to filter dark web results. Throughout the course of the project, I communicated with security analysts for requirements elicitation and feedback, and presented my work to the team in monthly sprint demonstrations. The project is still in progress, but once completed will greatly streamline the monitoring process for analysts and assist them in preventing and quickly handling client information leakage on the dark web.
My STS research examined the ethical implications of the 2016 amendment to FRCP 41. Prior to the amendment, Rule 41 mandated that judges could only issue warrants allowing law enforcement to conduct remote access searches on devices if those devices were located in the same district as the judge. The amendment allows judges to issue warrants for searches on devices located outside their district if the devices' locations are concealed, such as in dark web cases. Using the Social Construction of Policy Design (SCPD) framework, I analyzed scholars' ethical concerns regarding the amendment, primarily surrounding the expansion of Constitutional power it provides to the government, as well as international relations disagreements that could arise from extraterritorial searches. I also analyzed scholars' policy recommendations, and concluded that while scholars focused on domestic reform, the implementation of international law would additionally be necessary to prevent international disagreements and maintain a global standard for remote access searches. Lastly, I analyzed the current landscape, and found that despite a demonstrated need for governmental regulation, no policies have been implemented to date. Through my research, I theorized that the FBI tends to maintain secrecy regarding their cyber operations, which has led to a lack of discussion regarding the topic of remote access searches. I concluded that in order to ensure our privacy rights are protected, the public must demand increased transparency from the FBI, and apply pressure to lawmakers to implement recommended regulations on the government's use of remote access searches.
Through working on my technical project and learning from security analysts regarding their requirements in monitoring the dark web, I became aware of the dangers of the dark web and the difficulties involved in preventing and addressing crime in a space where criminals have the advantage of anonymity. Through my STS research, I was able to view the problem from a different perspective, specifically that of the FBI and law enforcement, in effectively apprehending anonymous criminals. Conducting a case study on the amendment to FRCP 41 helped me examine the inherent power structures and imbalance present between law enforcement and the general public; I discovered the potential of abuse of technology that can occur without appropriate regulations in place. My STS research also helped me better understand the significance and imperative nature of my technical project and, as an engineer, led me to be more conscious of the potential applications - positive or negative - of the technology I build. As a U.S. citizen, my STS research has shown me the importance of holding our government accountable for their use of technology.

BS (Bachelor of Science)
Computer Science, Dark Web, Web Application Development

School of Engineering and Applied Science
Bachelor of Science in Computer Science
Technical Advisor: Rosanne Vrugtman
STS Advisor: Richard Jacques

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