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What is the Dark Web and Why Should we Care?

June 6, 2019

What is the Dark Web and Why Should we Care?

June 6, 2019

You’re happily humming along on the Internet thinking you’ve got a pretty good understanding. You can navigate your way around Google, Facebook, Amazon, and news sites. You’re actually only visiting four percent of the Internet. There’s a whole world (96% of the Internet) hiding beyond these safe surface-level sites, known as the Dark Web. It’s a much less hospitable place.  

 

What exactly is the Dark Web? 

The Dark Web is a conglomeration of websites that cannot be found on search engines or accessed via traditional web browsers because their location and identity is hidden through encryption toolslike TORTOR was originally created to protect military communication but now has much broader utilization for both Dark Web purposes and for highly secure communication. You have to access Dark Web sites utilizing TOR, typically  

People create sites on the Dark Web in order to hide where they’re operating from, as well as to remain anonymous (TOR hides all IP information, identifying information, as well as data transfers)Over half of the sites on the Dark Web are used for criminal activities.  

 

Why Do People Use the Dark Web?  

One of the most prevalent uses of the Dark Web is buying and selling illegal goods, such as recreational drugsweapons, fake identities, and organsThe proliferation of cryptocurrency, like Bitcoin, has facilitated these sales. People living within totalitarian societies that restrict communication also take to the Dark Web to share their thoughts freely.   

The most dangerous use of the Dark Web for businesses is the exchange of credentials (usernames and passwords) and identities. An individual’s stolen credentials can typically be sold on the Dark Web for the low price of $1 to $8. Hackers utilize these purchased credentials to: 

  • Gain access to important financial information and steal identities (access to a Bank of America account holding $50,000 can be purchased for $500) 
  • Access accounts for further phishing attacks 
  • Threaten people with exposure of sensitive information (Remember the Ashley Madison hack from a few years back? Those credentials were dumped onto the Dark Web and hackers leveraged them to expose users). 
  • Compromise other accounts using the same passwords and perpetuate the sale of personal information 

 

What is the future of the Dark Web?

The Dark Web is actually shrinking after years of defunct sitesexit scams, and indictments. A new generation of criminals, dissidents, and privacy enthusiasts, however, will likely revive it using stronger anonymizing protocols while also conducting more criminal activity on the clear web. Cyber threat intelligence company Recorded Future’s May 7  report, Who’s Afraid of the Dark? Hype Versus Reality on the Dark Web, found a dark web that is much smaller than imagined, a fraction of the clear web—the everyday web that most Internet users are familiar with—and dominated by inactive websites.

Will the dark web collapse? This is unlikely. Cybercrime, much of it enabled by the dark web, is a $1.5 trillion industry, with new offerings such as crime-as-a-service joining the more traditional offerings of drugs and guns. The dark web has too many invested players—even organized crime groups—making too much money for it to disappear.