What the heck is the Dark Web?
How criminals use it to get all that they need to attack your business.
You may have heard the term Dark Web used in relation to criminal activity. Knowing exactly how it all works is not important to this article. However, understanding crime and why the Dark Web has made it easier to execute crimes against your business is important.
We’ll cover these points to help you better grasp the risk that the Dark Web presents your business.
- Define “crime” at a high level.
- Why the Dark Web is so appealing to criminals.
- What you can do to better protect your business from cybercrime.
To better understand the Dark Web, we need to understand why it is a haven for people that commit crimes.
What “crime” are we talking about?
Let’s start by putting the term “crime” into perspective. For this discussion, crime is any illegal act that benefits the criminal actor and hurts you or another victim.
An example of a crime could be something as simple as this.
- Someone steals a bike from your garage.
- It is illegal to steal items from your property.
- They committed a crime.
You lose your bike and the crook gets a free bike to sell or use themselves…as long as they aren’t caught.
That part about being caught is most often the risk preventing most people from committing crimes. Moral values certainly play into it. But we should admit that without the risk of being caught and punished, there would be a lot more crime.
The evolution of crime into the virtual world.
Getting caught trying to steal a bike from a garage is a very real possibility. It is risky to steal without the act being detected by a surveillance camera or a nosy neighbor who’s watching.
Cybercrime is appealing to criminals because they can act anonymously. And have little risk of being caught.
Imagine if our crook could walk into your garage knowing that nobody will see them. Or perhaps, if the crook is seen, they can’t be identified.
The risk of suffering punishment is essentially eliminated.
Do you think more crimes would occur if that was possible?
The Dark Web offers a virtual space to conduct criminal activities with little risk of being caught. For example, if you wanted to purchase stolen merchandise, the Dark Web has many options for completing that transaction.
This evolution of technology has opened the door for criminals to commit crimes in a safe, virtual environment.
If you want to learn more specifics about these crimes, check out this article.
Understanding the Deep Web and the Dark Web.
We use the internet every day to conduct business, communicate, entertain ourselves, shop, pay bills, and countless other useful functions.
But, did you know that the internet most people know represents just a tiny fraction of the data on the Web? Most of the data that is stored and accessed online resides in a virtual space called the Deep Web.
The Deep Web is thought to contain up to 99% of all the information available online. It is the virtual space that holds information that is not indexed, and therefore, not accessible from a search engine like Google.
Getting to information on the Deep Web often requires sign-in credentials.
Data stored on the Deep Web could be:
- Medical records
- Financial information
- Or any other information that needs security in place to access it.
The Dark Web is a subset of the Deep Web.
It is hidden intentionally and requires a special browser called Tor to access it.
What is found on the Dark Web?
There are legitimate websites on the Dark Web. However, much of it is a haven for criminal activity.
Criminals use the Dark Web for illegal transactions involving things like:
- Stolen goods
- Stolen information
- Human Trafficking
- And many other illegal transactions.
Criminals can buy, sell, or trade anonymously.
The risk of being caught is minimal because you don’t know the identity of anyone on the Dark Web.
Cybercriminals use the Dark Web to buy, sell or trade many things like:
- Stolen credit card numbers
- Stolen login credentials for websites
- Hacking or other cybercrime tools
- Intellectual property / Trade Secrets
Who are the criminals operating on the Dark Web?
Anybody who wants to conduct business or communicate anonymously can use the Dark Web.
Many are organized crime groups or even nation-states.
However, even small-time criminals are using the Dark Web.
An individual running a relatively small operation can purchase anything needed to conduct a cyber-attack.
- Ransomware attack kits
- Stolen login credentials
- Cybercrime training manuals and services
Crime for hire.
A crook can even hire someone else to conduct cyber-attacks for them. They simply pay the costs for the resources needed and share in the profits from a successful attack.
It is important to understand that it doesn’t require a sophisticated criminal to operate on the Dark Web.
They could be an individual who uses ransomware attacks on small businesses to make money.
A common thief can get everything they need to attack your small business on the Dark Web.
Can anyone get on the Dark Web?
In short, yes, anyone can download the Tor browser and navigate the Dark Web.
However, if you decide to check into it, prepare yourself for a much different internet browsing experience.
Sites on the Dark Web are anonymous, and therefore, they move around a lot.
A search on the Tor browser will lead you to many broken links and websites that no longer exist.
Also, be cautious and prepared for a shock. There is no filtering on the Tor browser, so you may encounter unsavory images, videos, or other unsettling things. There is no way to monitor or police what you can find on the Dark Web.
Think of the Dark Web as the scariest area of a city with a high crime rate. Interacting with others or conducting any kind of business there is extremely risky.
Is there any other purpose for the Dark Web besides criminal activity?
The Dark Web and the Tor network provide anonymous communication.
It serves as a communication channel for areas that are hostile to free speech. Many people use it in countries where eavesdropping is a common practice or internet access is illegal.
There are other good things that people do on the Dark Web. But, because of its design and anonymous nature, criminal activity now dominates it.
Protect yourself from Dark Web cybercriminals.
There are many steps you can take to protect yourself from cyber-attacks.
- Be cautious of where you browse online.
- Be suspicious of any email that contains links or attachments.
- Don’t act on anything a sender requests via email until you can confirm that it is legitimate. Do this via phone or text, not with email.
- Be sure to have a reliable back-up and disaster recovery system with monitoring in place.
To protect your business from cyber-attacks, I recommend finding a partner that provides cybersecurity expertise and solutions.
Take their advice and invest in products and services designed to secure your business network.
Cybercrime is much more sophisticated today than ever. The harm cyber-attacks cause a business can be devastating.
If you want to dive deeper into the Dark Web, check out this report written by Dr. Michael McGuire. Many consider this paper the definitive study of crime and the Dark Web.