It is Dawn on the Dark Web
*Also published on i-95 Business
The Dark Web or Deep web is not what you think it is.
For everyday users of the world wide web, the Dark and Deep Web are shrouded in mystery. Let us bring greater light to its usefulness to you. For the purpose of this article we will focus mainly on the “Dark Web.” Perhaps you have pictured young hackers wearing the eponymous Anonymous mask. Many wonder what exactly can be found on the Dark Web but are a little leery of delving into the shade of the unknown – guilty by association of some morally questionable activities. The Dark Web is infamous as the domain of dubious individuals conducting unscrupulous business, sharing illicit content and anarchist theologies.
And this is different from the World Wide Web how exactly?
If someone wants to buy stolen goods, join an Al Qaeda forum, or order illegal narcotics they do not need to go Dark; all of these things can be found on the so–called surface web, the one you “google” everyday.
So, the Dark Web is what exactly??
The Dark Web refers to sites that are visible to the public if you know where to look, but hide the addresses behind cryptography. You cannot find these sites by using search engines like Google or Bing yet. There is a distinction between the Deep and Dark Web – the Deep Web is generally password protected sites behind paywalls such as your bank account or Netflix subscription, or certain court records and licensing databases. If you have to type a password to access something on the web you are likely a user of the Deep Web and didn’t even know it. The Dark Web is just a small portion of the Deep Web that has been intentionally hidden, but collectively both of these are part of the Dark Web.
To access the Dark Web users access the Tor Browser, an open source anonymity tool that conceals the end user’s identity and heavily encrypts communication by bouncing communications through a network of relays run by volunteers all over the world. You can recognize a Dark Web address by the format https://somedarksite.onion. These address’s will not work in a normal browser without the Tor software. The dark web is a tiny, but growing portion of the web, without centralized structure and with non-indexed content available only through special browsers. These sites can be strange and bad in most people’s judgement, but also‑ dare we say‑ good! By way of example – if you live in a country that forbade its citizens from free speech or access to external news, the Dark Web is a tool to get around the state sponsored firewalls of oppressive regimes. Addicts can seek counseling without risking judgement, journalists may make contact with and protect whistleblowers or avoid censorship screening. People can browse the web without advertisers tracking them and have privacy knowing the coffee shop company cannot review your web browsing history.
Privacy, Privacy, Privacy
But that is not all. As users of the web become more concerned about privacy, social media and email services are responding. Social media has made its presence known on the Dark Web: Facebook has had an .onion site since 2014 so its users who are located in countries that block Facebook or who are worried about surveillance can be active. This past November the UK passed legislations mandating the tracking of web activity, the most extreme surveillance legislation ever passed in a democracy. Dark Web email providers have seen increased demand for their services as governments warm to data as a means to track citizen activity in response to threat activity.
The Deep Dark Truth and why C-Level Execs Should Care
There are very bad areas on the Dark Web: illegal goods like counterfeit handbags, drugs and IDs, money laundering and hitman services to name a few- DARK stuff. In addition, there are other potentially more damaging items for sale: your company or institutional email address and logins. These are offered for sale on the Dark Web for as little as $3.50 to $10 apiece. When the nonprofit Digital Citizens Alliance (DCA) searched the Dark Web for credentials from the top 300 US universities it found almost 14 million addresses, up from 2.8 million in 2016- a significant spike.
Is your company’s email address circulating in this (dark) space?
These stolen credentials give thieves an inside look (literally) at emails, company logins and other sensitive data. When that is not enough a disturbing new trend is recruiting employees at target locations on the Dark Web to act as rogue insiders, who get paid for placing malware within a business’s security perimeter or sending sensitive information directly. How can you know if your company’s information is circulating on the Dark Web? Companies like MNS Group who will help you monitor such things as employee email address, social security numbers and credit card details. Alerts can reduce “dwell time” – how long your security has been breached by the bad guys – and perhaps even help you prevent access in the first place.
The Dark Web does not have to be feared. Knowledge is power and it is wise to have the best measures in place to secure your network. Knowing the proper protocols and policies to equip your company with best practices and leading edge technology is something only a respected data security company can deliver. MNS Group, as a Managed Security Services Provider is well equipped to help your company secure your assets and provide a lighthouse on the rocky shores of the dark web.