Dark Reading is part of the Informa Tech Division of Informa PLC

This site is operated by a business or businesses owned by Informa PLC and all copyright resides with them.Informa PLC's registered office is 5 Howick Place, London SW1P 1WG. Registered in England and Wales. Number 8860726.

Operational Security

7/23/2018
09:35 AM
Alan
 Zeichick
Alan Zeichick
Alan Zeichick
50%
50%

Watch Out: The Dark Web Is Really Watching You

The Dark Web is a lot of things, but it's mostly a hangout for criminals and cyberthieves. However, this dark corner of the Internet may know more about you or your enterprise than you think.

Watch out for the Dark Web. It's a scary place, and it can get you in trouble.

But what is the Dark Web? What's on there, and who controls it?

There are three Internets, metaphorically speaking. The one we generally think about is the open Internet, sometimes called the Surface Web.

This is where you'll find all the usual websites that everyone uses: e-commerce sites such as eBay and Amazon, entertainment sites like Netflix and YouTube, search engines like Bing and Google, social media like Facebook and Twitter, news and information like NYTimes.com and Wikipedia.com and even SecurityNow.com.

Easy.

The second is the closed Internet, sometimes called the Deep Web.

That's filled with private and secure information -- such as the information from your bank with your balances, your doctor with your lab results, your data backups, your company's IaaS/PaaS services in the cloud, email servers, databases, ERP and CRM systems and other infrastructure. The closed Internet is huge, but we can only access the parts that we're authorized to see, often using complex Uniform Resource Identifiers (URIs) or even numerical IP addresses.

The third Internet is the Dark Web, which is often referred to as a secret part of the Deep Web.

(Source: Wikipedia)
(Source: Wikipedia)

The Dark Web consists of services and servers operated by criminal networks, individual hackers and other bad actors. Like the rest of the closed Internet, the contents of the Dark Web isn't indexed by Google or Bing. You won't find the Dark Web using your normal web browser. But it's there, and fast-growing: it doubled in size in February alone, at least in the number of secret sites discovered by researchers.

By some estimates, including a report by Carbon Black, the Dark Web economy is growing at an incredible rate of 2,500% each year.

You may not know about the Dark Web, but the people who operate sites on it know about you -- and may know more about you, and your business, than you realize or are comfortable with. (See 'RDP Shops' Proliferate Throughout the Dark Web.)

When you hear that millions of customer records with personal information have been stolen, or that someone skimmed credit card numbers from a fuel station, odds are that the thief didn't steal that information in order to use it.

The best analogy is a crook who breaks into a house and steals the TV set and a string of pearls: the crook wants to sell those goods, turning them into cash.

The place to sell those goods is on the Dark Web; the way to get paid is via untraceable cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin, Litecoin, Ethereum or Monero. There are cloud-based services on the Dark Web that help authenticate stolen information and facilitate the payments.

How do the sellers work?
They set up accounts on what are essentially alternative message boards, like you'd find on eBay or Craigslist, but hidden and with a high degree of anonymity. They offer up some samples for buyers to check out, to demonstrate that the stolen pearls are, indeed, real pearls. And they use anonymous file-transfer services to make the transaction.

Who are the buyers?
Anyone who has the technical resources to piece together personal information from many sources to enable identity theft, or can use stolen payment cards to effect financial transfers.

Some of the information stolen is intellectual property, ranging from early cuts of movies to software code to plans for military bases. Some of the information are business records that could be used for insider trading or for trying to trick businesses into doing wire transfers. Some of the data are usernames and passwords; the info buyer might get lucky, and find out that someone’s e-commerce password, stolen from an unsophisticated small business, also unlocks their banking information or email account. A huge amount of the data is involved in trading illegal drugs, guns, explosives and hacking tools.

So much data has been stolen and collected about organizations and consumers -- some from government agencies -- that there's definitely information about you, your family and your business.

Frankly, there's nothing you can do about it.

Sure, you can look to see what they have. Experian, for example, has what they call a Dark Web Triple Scan. There are other sites that do similar searches; I'm not sure they do more than skim the surface.

How do you access the Dark Web?
The first step is to download and install an open-source anonymizing browser called Tor. With Tor, you can access Dark Web resources, like the Grams search engine, the Torch search engine or the Onion URL repository.

Want my advice? Don't do it. The hackers that populate the Dark Web are smart. If you visit their sites, they may be able to install malware onto your computer; you certainly can't trust any downloads.

Be doubly careful if using any work-related computers for exploring the Dark Web, as this could compromise a business network. Be sure to talk to your IT department to make sure it's okay and that they are prepared. But even there... let me repeat, don't do it. Leave the Dark Web to the bad actors, and to the good actors in the cybersecurity industry and law enforcement.

Trust me. Don't go there.

Related posts:

Alan Zeichick is principal analyst at Camden Associates, a technology consultancy in Phoenix, Arizona, specializing in enterprise networking, cybersecurity and software development. Follow him @zeichick.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Oldest First  |  Newest First  |  Threaded View
Edge-DRsplash-10-edge-articles
I Smell a RAT! New Cybersecurity Threats for the Crypto Industry
David Trepp, Partner, IT Assurance with accounting and advisory firm BPM LLP,  7/9/2021
News
Attacks on Kaseya Servers Led to Ransomware in Less Than 2 Hours
Robert Lemos, Contributing Writer,  7/7/2021
Commentary
It's in the Game (but It Shouldn't Be)
Tal Memran, Cybersecurity Expert, CYE,  7/9/2021
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
White Papers
Video
Cartoon
Current Issue
How Data Breaches Affect the Enterprise
Data breaches continue to cause negative outcomes for companies worldwide. However, many organizations report that major impacts have declined significantly compared with a year ago, suggesting that many have gotten better at containing breach fallout. Download Dark Reading's Report "How Data Breaches Affect the Enterprise" to delve more into this timely topic.
Flash Poll
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2021-4020
PUBLISHED: 2021-11-27
janus-gateway is vulnerable to Improper Neutralization of Input During Web Page Generation ('Cross-site Scripting')
CVE-2021-23654
PUBLISHED: 2021-11-26
This affects all versions of package html-to-csv. When there is a formula embedded in a HTML page, it gets accepted without any validation and the same would be pushed while converting it into a CSV file. Through this a malicious actor can embed or generate a malicious link or execute commands via C...
CVE-2021-43785
PUBLISHED: 2021-11-26
@joeattardi/emoji-button is a Vanilla JavaScript emoji picker component. In affected versions there are two vectors for XSS attacks: a URL for a custom emoji, and an i18n string. In both of these cases, a value can be crafted such that it can insert a `script` tag into the page and execute malicious...
CVE-2021-43776
PUBLISHED: 2021-11-26
Backstage is an open platform for building developer portals. In affected versions the auth-backend plugin allows a malicious actor to trick another user into visiting a vulnerable URL that executes an XSS attack. This attack can potentially allow the attacker to exfiltrate access tokens or other se...
CVE-2021-41243
PUBLISHED: 2021-11-26
There is a Potential Zip Slip Vulnerability and OS Command Injection Vulnerability on the management system of baserCMS. Users with permissions to upload files may upload crafted zip files which may execute arbitrary commands on the host operating system. This is a vulnerability that needs to be add...