What is the Dark Net?
You use email to send and receive your files. You surf the web for Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. You visit tons of legitimate sites like Wikipedia, Tech Republic, New York Times and PC World.
That’s the part of the web we browse every day.
But that’s simply not the end of the digital world over the internet.
Beyond that, there lies an underworld type of structure that is unknown to many of us. Even if it can’t be found or directly accessed via surface search engines like Google and Yahoo. It is the part of the internet below the private deep web that utilizes custom software and hidden networks covered on the architecture of the internet.
For example, the ocean has been divided into five layers or zones. The most visible layer where sunlight can go and we are familiar with is Epipelagic Zone or the Sunlight Zone. But the rest of the four layers are either under scientific observation or simply unknown to us. Simply put, we don’t know what kind of animals live there. These layers can be termed the underworld of the ocean.
The same thing can be said about the Dark Net in the context of the web world. It is just like exploring the hidden layers of an onion.
They are the web pages that are not identified by search engines.
And did you know that 96% of online content is found in the Dark Net or deep web? After all, the hidden web is almost endless and it is impossible to find how many pages or sites are active at one time. However, encryption and anonymity browsers like Tor have enabled the users to “dig deep” if they are interested.
The Dark Net is a network and is purposefully hidden. It is only accessible with special tools and software or other protocol/browsers beyond direct links or credentials.
Interestingly, in the 1970s, Dark Net was referred to as networks that were linked to the ARPANET for security purposes.
Most of the Dark Net sites are reminiscent of 90s websites with plain design and fast loading time.
According to an article published in the Journal of Electronic Publishing, there were 550 billion individual documents on the Dark Net compared to one billion on the surface web in 2001. While remaining incognito from traditional search engines, nearly 95% of the content on the deep web is accessible to the users through specific browsers or tools.
What You Can Find on the Dark Net
The Dark Net is used to sell illegal services or products or the content with criminal intent.
The dark web is stacked with illicit marketplaces selling credit card details, drugs, weapons, hackers, passport scans and even contract killers. These illegal marketplaces accept bitcoin only. And these online stores can disappear at any time. One such popular Dark Net site is the Wall Street Market being modeled on eBay. It sells illegal products and services and has over 550,000 customer accounts.
You can find counterfeit cash in dollars, Euros and pounds sterling on demand.
Counterfeit Passports and Travel Documents:
Passports are one of the largest selling items on the dark web, with many providers guaranteeing their fake documents wouldn’t pose any problem for traveling or opening bank accounts.
Understanding the Cybersecurity Risk Associated with Dark Net
The dark web might seem an adventurous place. But keep in mind that it poses a higher security risk to your information. Exploring the hidden sites without precautions is just like trying to get safely through a place infected by Ebola.
A 2016 article published in Harvard Business Review has found that the Dark Net not only risks the users’ information but also poses a threat to the businesses. For example, an illegitimate marketplace can sell intellectual property, pirated software, stolen code and other digital assets of the victim enterprises. An employee could sell trade secrets.
Many of the websites on the dark web are fraud to trick the users into giving their details or set up by law enforcement agencies to track existing and potential criminal activity. Your device or computer might end up with malware unless precautions are taken.
The other common attacks are Vawtrack that is designed to gain access to your financial accounts; Skynet that steals bitcoins and Nionspy that can record keystrokes, steal documents and track other information of the infected device or computer.
How to Avoid the Risk of Dark Net?
Trust Your Gut Feeling:
Something seems too good to be true? Or you came across a website that claims a million-dollar reward or a sexy iPhone if you participate in their quiz?
Here is a sage piece of advice—just avoid these sites. There might be something fishy if someone is being unusually friendly. In such scenarios, you should trust your gut feeling.
Take Care of Your Identity:
Don’t provide your email ID unless you are sure you are dealing with the right website. Otherwise, you can create a throwaway email address. And don’t use the same password for every online account.
Don’t Use Your Credit Cards:
Avoid using your credit card that can be traced directly to you and expose your financial information. Instead, use prepaid, single-use cards for online transactions. If you still want to use your credit card, make sure the website is encrypted as you check the web address. The address should start with “https://” rather than “Http://”. The “s” on the former means “secure socket layer,” and it means that send and received information is encrypted.
Use Online Alerts to Monitor Your Financial Accounts:
Most banks and credit card companies let you set up alerts and notifications anytime you send or receive money.
Don’t Download or Open Files Online From the Dark Web:
Make sure to have antivirus software installed on your PC (not all users have antivirus tool). It will scan and detect viruses, worms, Trojans and other malware. Don’t open suspicious links, especially anything that is related to illegal activities.
Upgrade Your Web Browser Regularly:
Keep your web browser updated to deal with new threats.
At this point, you must have a better understanding of Dark Net as well as its threat. What do you think? Let me know by dropping your comment below! Stay safe. Stay alert.
Ayman Totounji is the CEO of Cynexlink. Cynexlink is a company that helps small and mid-sized companies by delivering technology solutions like cybersecurity, Managed IT services and cloud computing.