CSU launches controversial Dark Web university subject

Australia’s first ever university subject on the nefarious underbelly of the internet proves a hit with students with over 80 per cent of new cyber security students nominating the Dark Web option as their first subject.

MELBOURNE: Friday, 16 February 2018 - IT Masters, an industry-based organisation that partners with Charles Sturt University (CSU) to provide online Masters degrees to IT professionals is experiencing unprecedented interest in the new Dark Web subject it is offering as part of its Cyber Security Masters degree.

According to IT Masters’ Director, Martin Hale there was a “robust debate” within CSU’s School of Computing and Mathematics as to whether such a course should be offered.

“When we proposed running this course, we expected to come up against resistance because of the sensitivity of the subject matter,” Hale said. “In the end, however, the school decided that it was important that graduates had an in-depth knowledge of how the cyber crime economy functions.

“The Dark Web is a growing, hidden economy where anonymous marketplaces trade in everything from illegal drugs, hacking tools, ransomware scams, personal data, forged documents and industrial secrets.

“It is a complex, mysterious and dynamic domain where cyber criminals create, share, buy and sell their wares.”

Hale said that around $72 billion of illegal activity per year involves bitcoin - the largest of multiple cyber currencies - and the majority of that is transacted or connected in some form or manner to activity on the Dark Web. It is also where the worst of business continuity risks emerge such as malware and denial of service attacks.

“Every security manager for every IT organisation would be negligent not to have some understanding of the Dark Web and its potential to impact their operations,” he said. “One of the best ways to start effectively combating Dark Web threats and cracking down on the illegal marketplaces is to increase the pool of people who have a detailed understanding of what it is and how it operates.

“This Dark Web subject has obviously struck a chord with the growing number of people registered to complete the IT Masters/CSU Cyber Security Masters degree as over 80 per cent of them have enrolled in it as their first subject.

Only available to post-graduate students, CSU’s Dark Web course is being run by Dr Rafiqul Islam, Leader of Cybersecurity Research Team in CSU’s School of Computing and Mathematics, Faculty of Business, Justice and Behavioural Sciences.

Dr Islam is a highly-decorated network, cyber, and cloud security academic with an extensive body of work in defining and combating malicious malware attacks. He has been involved with over 100 published cyber security papers and has presented at over 50 conferences globally on the subject.

“In 2017, the US Department of Defence requested $8 billion in funding to address national security issues relating to internet crime,” he said. “There is a massive and growing dark economy functioning behind a veil of secrecy enabled by advanced technology and ruthless cyber criminals.

“This Dark Web subject for CSU students will provide a broad overview of emerging digital threats and computer crimes. There will be an emphasis on cyber-stalking, hacktivism, fraud and identity theft, and attacks on critical infrastructure as well as the cross-disciplinary approaches to the dark web in the context of emerging crime threats.

“We will be analysing the online underground economy, the digital currencies it thrives on and cybercrime on the dark web. Students will also delve into the technological and social engineering methods used to undertake such crimes and they will also study dark web forensics and mitigating techniques.”

Dr Islam said that the subject further explores how dark web crimes are conducted on the surface web in new mediums, such as IOT (Internet of Things) and Peer to Peer file sharing systems.

CSU Subject ITC578 Dark Web (8)

The syllabus covers the following topics:

  • Introduction to the dark web and its various threats
  • Malicious dark net
  • Data analysis of Web content
  • Dark web forensics
  • Open Source intelligence

Upon successful completion of this subject, students should have the following learning outcomes:

  • Be able to differentiate between theoretical and cross-disciplinary approaches to the dark web;
  • Be able to analyse the evolution of the dark web in the context of emerging crime threats;
  • Be able to distinguish and classify the forms of cybercriminal activity through the dark web, and the technological and social engineering methods used to undertake such crimes;
  • Be able to investigate assumptions about the behaviour and role of offenders and victims in the dark web;
  • Be able to analyse and assess the impact of cybercrime, along with the mitigating techniques used to defend against cybercrime; and
  • Be able to discuss, analyse and apply dark web-related research and applications.

For more information:

Martin Hale - IT Masters - martin.hale@itmasters.com.au - 0419 322 844


IT Masters is an industry-based training organisation that has partnered with Charles Sturt University to:

  • Promote Charles Sturt University’s unique range of industry-based Masters degrees to the IT industry,
  • Support students studying their industry certification-based subjects, and
  • Research and identify opportunities to further expand the range of Masters programs.

Their first combined Masters degree was launched in 2002. Since 2009 Charles Sturt University has had the largest number of domestic postgraduate IT students of any Australian university with over 7,000 enrolments so far.