Tech Tuesday: What is the Dark Net?

HackerWe’re going to the Dark Side of the internet. Let’s talk about the Dark Net. You may have seen this referenced in a season of House of Cards, or maybe you’ve read about it in Chuck Wendig’s Zer0es or heard about it on NPR, but I’m bringing into the discussion my own thoughts from the book Future Crimes by Marc Goodman. There is a lot out there about Deep Web and its nefarious cousin, Dark Net.

The Internet is more than just Facebook, Amazon, Yelp!, Instagram—all the things you know and love. That’s the fun, lighter side of cyberspace, but there is another part. A hidden part. A twisting, winding path, if you want to get poetic. This part known as the Deep Web. Google only indexes about 16% of the Internet. That’s it—only 16%. The other 84%—a pretty significant part of the Internet, rest assured—is known as the Deep Web. This innocuous data lies in mundane networks like LexisNexis. You’ll find old, dated accounting records, rules for the US Patent Office, and things that really does not garner public interest. This is the Deep Web, and within this boring, barren place exists another hidden world. This other place is significantly smaller, but a community none the less where there is all kinds of activity. Illegal activity.

Welcome to the Dark Net.

On Dark Net you could find vendors like Silk Road, an illegal drug merchant that carried out almost $200 Million of business within 28 months. Drugs. Counterfeit currency. Falsified college diplomas. Forged government documents such as passports, driver’s licenses, immigration papers, fake IDs—all available from the Onion Identity Services. Then there are the guns. Ammunition, explosives, handguns. Even C4 explosives is available, shipped in specially shielded packages to avoid X-rays.

So what exactly are the enabling technologies that allow this to happen? Well, we actually talked about it on a Big Idea recently, now that you ask. Crypto-currency or digital cash such as Bitcoin allows you to make payments anonymously. Webhosts in places like Russia and Ukraine welcome all content, making no attempt or effort to learn what their customers are dealing. Cloud computing also offers an enabling technology, as reputable vendors offer public cloud services and inadvertently allow hackers to access and distribute criminal malware to systems worldwide. Hackers of all levels can buy ready-made tools on Dark Net created specifically for identity theft purposes, or you can step into the Dark Net and find hackers for hire. There are organized cyber-crime syndicates such as China’s Hidden Lynx, boasting up to 100 professional cyber-thieves on call.

The big question though, particularly for thrill seekers who like to explore the darker sides of society, is how do you access the Dark Net?

First, you need a browser that is anonymous, an anonymizing browser as they say. Tor (The Onion Router) is the weapon of choice for a gateway to the Dark Net. Tor re-routes signals across 6,000 servers to hide the page request origin, making it impossible to trace who went to this particular site. The Dark Net has its own search engines, wikis carefully organized by category, hacking, marketing, viruses; and hidden chatrooms that allow you to connect with other partners-in-crime.

So when I hear of companies and corporations that cut security budgets, I tell people about the Dark Net, and I talk about how important cybersecurity certifications are extremely important as employers are worried about protecting privacy. You don’t have to look very hard to find news on companies hacked, personal information compromised, and data lost. It’s an ongoing problem, an ongoing threat. Employers need to have a solid cybersecurity plan in place. I take a lot of pride in teaching our students ethical hacking. We even show them part of the Dark Net so that they truly understand what they are up against, and why their ability to combat it matters.



Stratford-KeyCyber_SM.pngStratford University, in association with Key Cybersecurity, is offering CISSP, CISA and CEH training and certification courses at many of its Northern Virginia campuses. We will be providing students the hands-on experience with state of the art security solutions like HeurekaCyber’s Cyber Armor and others. Join us at in becoming the first line of defense in cybersecuity.



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