D2WFP: a novel protocol for forensically identifying, extracting, and analysing deep and dark web browsing activities

Ghanem, Mohamed Chahine, Mulvihill, Patrick, Ouazzane, Karim, Djemai, Ramzi and Dunsin, Dipo (2023) D2WFP: a novel protocol for forensically identifying, extracting, and analysing deep and dark web browsing activities. Journal of Cybersecurity and Privacy, 3 (4). pp. 808-820. ISSN 2624-800X


The use of the unindexed web, commonly known as the deep web and dark web, to commit or facilitate criminal activity has drastically increased over the past decade. The dark web is a dangerous place where all kinds of criminal activities take place, Despite advances in web forensic techniques, tools, and methodologies, few studies have formally tackled dark and deep web forensics and the technical differences in terms of investigative techniques and artefact identification and extraction. This study proposes a novel and comprehensive protocol to guide and assist digital forensic professionals in investigating crimes committed on or via the deep and dark web. The protocol, named D2WFP, establishes a new sequential approach for performing investigative activities by observing the order of volatility and implementing a systemic approach covering all browsing-related hives and artefacts which ultimately resulted in improving the accuracy and effectiveness. Rigorous quantitative and qualitative research has been conducted by assessing the D2WFP following a scientifically sound and comprehensive process in different scenarios and the obtained results show an apparent increase in the number of artefacts recovered when adopting the D2WFP which outperforms any current industry or opensource browsing forensic tools. The second contribution of the D2WFP is the robust formulation of artefact correlation and cross-validation within the D2WFP which enables digital forensic professionals to better document and structure their analysis of host-based deep and dark web browsing artefacts.

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