01st March 2016
The Dark Side of the Internet
The internet is huge, we all know that. It would take months and months, probably years, to go on Google and find every single website on the internet... But did you know that the sites that you can find on search engines such as Google and Bing only make up 10% of the whole internet?
That's right, everything that we can find on search engines makes up just 10% of the entire web. So where's the rest of it? What is the rest of it? How do we find it and why is it hidden?
In simple terms, the Dark Web is the hidden side of the internet. Although it is a public space, special access and software (of which study by Gareth Owen of Portsmouth University discovered that content on the Dark Web was dominated by: Illegal pornography, black markets, hacking groups and botnet operations (those commonly associated with spam, fraud and malicious attacks).
As of January 2015, hidden services on the Dark Web includes: Drugs, fraud, black market sites, bitcoin, whistleblowing, hacking, pornography, blogs, abuse and plenty of other activity that hasn't been indexed.
Who's on the Dark Web?
Despite attempts to index the Dark Web, much is still unknown about its contents. We do know that various characters and people with differing motives use the Dark Web to perform nefarious activities and sell illegal products.
- Black Markets: Selling and dealing of illegal items and products, e.g. drugs and weapons
- Botnets Services: Creating a large amount of traﬃc to temporarily or indeﬁnitely interrupt or suspend a server
- Terrorists: The US Government has successfully intercepted messages from Al Qaeda on the Dark Web
- Hoaxers: It’s incredibly hard to tell what’s true and what is a hoax on the Dark Web
- Hackers: The anonymity of the Dark Web provides the perfect base for hackers to work from
- Fraudsters: There are many sites and forums dedicated to scamming and counterfeiting
- Phishing: Cloned sites and scam sites are abundant on the Dark Web
- Hitmen: Services include hitmen for hire and arms dealers, with a pricing structure
- Pornography: Dominated by illegal and ethically disputed pornography
If you're a business owner, any of these ‘services’ may pose a threat to your business! With all the above available as services to buy or hire on the Dark Web, there is a very real threat to your business. Your information can be stolen, duplicated and sold very quickly in total anonymity and little risk of consequence.
Your Data for Sale (and it doesn't cost too much...)
If your personal details have been stolen, compromised, or fall into the hands of the wrong people, then it wouldn't cost too much to buy the information if it were to be sold on the Dark Web.
Buying a Social Security number costs just $1.00, whilst getting hold of someone's medical records will cost just $50. If your credit card details were to be put up for sale the average price would be $60 but could be sold for much less. For a little bit more your bamk details can be bought for $1000 and commerical malware would cost a buyer $2500+. This would exploit hundreds of thousands of dollars, possibly millions.
It's Not All Bad...
The Dark Web isn’t totally full of criminal activity, some use the anonoymity for good, such as whistleblowing, or activism. There is also some suggestion that government agencies uses complex code-breaking puzzles to recruit new staﬀ, such as the US Naval Research Lab circa 2002. Following this, in 2003 the I2P peer-to-peer network was developed from the Freenet network. Tor continued to develop and in 2003 the network was released under general license and in 2004 became a nonprofit organisation. In 2013 Tor usership reached 4 million users.
A huge development came in 2009 when Bitcoin, the digital currency was developed, making annonymous, encrypted transactions possible.
How Does Tor Work?
Tor directs Internet traﬃc through a free, worldwide, volunteer network consisting of more than six thousand relays to conceal a user's location and usage from anyone conducting network surveillance or traﬃc analysis. Your chosen Tor client will pick a random path to the destination server which consists of Tors nodes, encrypted and unencrypted links.
Analysing A Dark Web URL
We'd recomemmend that you don't start browing around the Dark Web, but if you did, you’d need a Tor-enabled browser or a proxy to do so. Dark Web links aren’t that easy to stumble across, based on their composition, but occasionally links ﬁnd their way onto popular sites such as Youtube, Twitter, Reddit and online forums.
Here's an example of a Dark Web URL: http://3g2upl4pq6kufc4m.onion
The hostname (3g2upl4pq6kufc4m) is randomly generated from the Tor software to create a hidden service. The domain suffic (.onion) is a domain reachable only via the Tor network.
Some Disturbing Fact and Figures about the Dark Web
- A massive 96% of the internet is not accessible by search engines, like Google or Bing.
- $20k is the cost for a hitman to target an ‘ordinary’ person. $100k for someone ‘important’.
- Incredibly, 80% of Tor’s funding comes from the US Government.
- There are an estimated 50,000 extremist terrorist groups on the Dark Web
- The Deep (& Dark) Web are growing at a faster rate than the surface rate.
- The 60 largest Deep Web sites contain around 750 TB. That’s 40 times bigger than the entire Surface Web!
What's Being Done about the Dark Web?
In 2013 Silk Road 2.0 was taken down in a single day following a six month, 17-nation police operation, with Europol keeping quiet about how this was achieved.
The US Defence Advanced Reasearch Projects Agency (DARPA) have begun the ardious task of indexing the Deep Web, getting one step closer to identifying the structure of the Deep web.
10 Ways You Can Stay Safe Online
- Stay away from the Dark Web - don't give in to curiousity.
- Keep all your software up-to-date, not just your anti-virus software.
- Use many strong passwords - don't have a single password for everything.
- Be vigilant when using public WiFi. It may not be as secure as you are told or think it is.
- Check all your privacy settings on your social media accounts.
- Look for a padlock or HTTPS in your browser window - especially when online shopping.
- Don't open or download attachments from unknown email addresses.
- Don't click any links within email messages if you don't know the sender.
- Make sure your firewall is installed and don't disable it!
- Have a set-limit on your credit card for online transactions.