The dark web conjures up images of malicious agents scouring the internet for illegal drugs, personal information, and the most recent ransomware software. However, it originated with the US government as a means of sharing sensitive information.
The term “deep web” refers to websites and services that are not indexed by search engines. Sites that end in “.onion,” for example, can only be accessed anonymously, and their web URL must be known in advance. The dark web is a subset of deep websites that require encryption or specialty software to access.
𝐖𝐡𝐚𝐭 𝐈𝐬 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐃𝐚𝐫𝐤 𝐖𝐞𝐛?
Understanding the origins of the dark web can help us understand what it is. The dark web, which was created to help anonymize government intelligence communications, makes use of network routing capabilities that were originally designed to protect intelligence data online through the use of special equipment and programs. To access dark websites, a Tor Browser or an Invisible Internet Protocol (I2P) setup must be configured to allow anonymous online activity.
“Tor, which stands for ‘onion router’ or ‘onion routing,’ is designed primarily to keep users anonymous,” Security Boulevard’s “Understanding the Darknet and Its Impact on Cyber Security” article explains.
“Data is stored within multiple layers of encryption, much like the layers of an onion.” Each layer reveals the next relay until the data is sent to its destination by the final layer. Data is sent bidirectionally, which means it is sent back and forth through the same tunnel. On any given day, over 1 million people use the Tor network.”
𝐇𝐨𝐰 𝐭𝐨 𝐏𝐫𝐨𝐭𝐞𝐜𝐭 𝐘𝐨𝐮𝐫𝐬𝐞𝐥𝐟 𝐨𝐧 𝐭𝐡𝐞 𝐃𝐚𝐫𝐤 𝐖𝐞𝐛
Knowing if your data is on the dark web is an important step in protecting yourself from threats. Dark web monitoring tools function similarly to a dark web search engine (such as Google). These tools aid in the discovery of leaked or stolen information such as compromised passwords, compromised credentials, intellectual property, and other sensitive data shared and sold by malicious actors operating on the dark web.
𝐓𝐡𝐞 𝐃𝐚𝐫𝐤 𝐖𝐞𝐛 𝐚𝐧𝐝 𝐂𝐫𝐲𝐩𝐭𝐨𝐜𝐮𝐫𝐫𝐞𝐧𝐜𝐲
After the introduction of decentralized cryptocurrencies in 2009, dark web users discovered that they could exchange money for goods and services in a semi-anonymous manner.
Silk Road was perhaps the most well-known dark web black market. Users bought drugs, guns, hitman services, and hacked computer programs and accounts. The marketplace’s administrators held bitcoin (or other cryptocurrency) payments in escrow until the buyer received the purchased item or service.
Although law enforcement eventually shut down Silk Road, similar marketplaces thrive on the dark web. Moreover, unlike the Silk Road, newer marketplaces are decentralized and more hidden. Investigations are costly and time-consuming because dark web activity bounces signals off nodes or relay sites located in multiple countries around the world.