What is the Dark Web? Is it something you run into at night and all of a sudden you become a Ninja Warrior? Not quite.
There are 3 levels of the internet:
- World Wide Web (www): which everyone is very familiar
- Deep Web: Government resources, academic information, medical records, etc. make up 90% of the internet content and not searchable
- Dark Web: Stolen & illegal information, illegal pornography, drug trafficking, etc. make up the 6% of the of the internet content in the dark web and is not searchable. This is the dark side of the web, thus the name.
WWW only holds 4% of the internet content which is the part you see. The remaining content that you cannot see is in the deep and dark web. WWW is just the tip of the iceberg.
The deep and dark web are not indexed by any search engine using a web crawler (robot or spider). Web crawler type of bots search the internet and index for search engines, like Google, DuckDuckGo, etc. Deep and dark websites block bots from indexing their sites by using firewalls and other items to keep their data from showing up in a search.
The deep web holds at least 90% of the internet content; some sources have it up to 95%. The type of content it holds are medical records, confidential company web pages, human resource records, membership website, etc. Even though some dark web information can live in this area it is mostly legitimate content.
The dark web is estimated to hold about 5% to 6% of content on the internet. No one really knows the exact amount of content stored in the dark web because the content is mostly illegal. For example, companies that have been breached and their data stolen (individuals account information, username & passwords, SSN, etc.) are kept on the dark web.
Dark web sites do not end in your normal .com, .edu, .org, etc. URL (Uniform Resource Locator) sites. The dark web uses “.onion” for site location and the sites are usually on encrypted networks that need special software (IE: TOR type browser) to access the information. “Tor Browser aims to make all users look the same, making it difficult for you to be fingerprinted based on your browser and device information. This is MULTI-LAYERED ENCRYPTION”. (from torproject.org)
These sites are not going to have easy names (URLs) to remember like google.com or yahoo.com. They will probably have random numbers and letters for their URL, such as “adhu89ghug67.onion”. The government is trying to shut down the part of the dark web that deals with black markets and assassinations. They are constantly trying to shut down all dark web sites, however, it’s not easy since the sites are always changing and moving to avoid detection and criminal charges.
Scammers, phishing, malware and hackers also reside in the dark web. Hacker groups like Chaos Computer Club, Anonymous and milwOrm, live in the dark web. These groups are known to share information between various e-criminals.
Criminals wanting to educate themselves on how to create ATM skimmers, pull data from user’s laptops, or how to create a banking trojan or other malware can go to sites that offer “crime-as-a-service” or “hardware for sale”. This is much like the legitimate companies who use Office 365 or Google docs or go to Amazon to buy laptops, printers, etc. A criminal can purchase products for illegal activities from the dark web.
When information, a product or a service is sold on the dark web, the common choice for payment is Bitcoin. Bitcoin is commonly used because it allows transactions between two parties without knowing each other’s identity. These transactions are extremely hard, if not impossible to trace.
The dark web is not a place you want to allow your curiosity to venture. Research is needed to find the safest way if you feel the need to investigate dark web content. Our previous article on VPN solutions is one of the many tools you will need to investigate before attempting to access the dark web.
As a reminder, what you see on the internet via WWW is an extremely small portion of all internet content, only 4% or less, but to most of us, that 4% looks big. Now, think of the 6% of dark web internet content with another 90%+ deep web internet content. The internet can be a scary place if you are not careful. Please read our previous articles on how to watch for phishing scams, credit monitoring tools and VPN tools.
David H. Coull
Senior Systems Administrator