It’s been one heck of a ride this year, when it comes to cybersecurity. From the recent Marriot breach (which was one of the largest ever), all the way back to the massive Under Armour hacking in February, the news has been filled with dire warnings about cybercrime such as ransomware, cryptojacking, sextortion, and other cybercriminal activity. And the dark web is part of it all.
And, since cybercrime is up, that means there’s a high probability that at least some of your data is somewhere on the dark web.
Let us reassure you here: having your data on the dark web isn’t as bad as it seems, but it does mean you should take a moment to educate yourself about what the dark web is and how a network services company may be able to protect you and your data from dark web criminals.
By the end of this article, you’ll have a lot more detail about the dark web, and you’ll understand that, honestly, the dark web isn’t as scary as you think.
There’s a lot of misinformation out there about the dark web, so let’s get the facts straight, first and foremost.
Imagine the internet as a deep, deep lake…
Let’s start by talking about the internet you already know, which is filled with awesome cat videos, Amazon.com, and Twitter. That internet is often known as the “surface web,” because it’s easy to access using search engines like Google or Bing.
If you imagine the entirety of the internet (including the dark web) as a lake and you imagine Google as a boat floating on top of the lake, the analogy of the “surface web” makes sense: Google (your boat) can get you anywhere on the surface of the lake, but if you want to get at something under the surface, your boat won’t offer much help.
All that stuff under the surface of the lake is what’s known as the “deep web.” Estimates suggest that the deep web is 400-500 times larger than the surface web, so it makes for a pretty darn deep lake.
Most of the deep web is harmless. Deep web pages and sites are simply non-indexed pages, so they tend to be the things that are protected by usernames and passwords. It’s pretty handy that there’s such a thing as the deep web, or else your personal email and your cloud-based business accounting software would be indexed and available for anyone to find on Google. The more secure and protected your web accounts are, the “deeper” they are in the lake… and the deepest, most secure portion of the lake is known as the dark web.
The dark web isn’t 100% bad
Okay, we know that this extended “lake” metaphor has got you thinking of the dark web as the scary parts of the ocean where sunlight can’t reach and where giant squid and angler fish reside. If the thought of the dark depths of the internet is making you claustrophobic, take a breath. It’s okay.
Even the dark web isn’t all that scary.
The dark web is a highly secure area of the deep web, providing ~99.9% anonymity for its users, which is attractive to free-speech activists, journalists, whistleblowers, and, yeah, criminals too.
We won’t lie: most of the dark web is filled with criminals. A 2016 study by cyber-threat experts Daniel Moore and Thomas Rid determined that 57% of the dark web contained illicit material… so if you discover that your teenage kid is trolling around in the depths of the dark web, you should ask him or her some serious questions.
Accessing the dark web
To return to our lake analogy, think of those intrepid explorers who venture into the depths of bottomless lakes. They need specialized equipment, such as scuba gear. Likewise, travelers to the dark web need specialized access software, such as Tor.
Tor, an acronym for “The Onion Router,” is software that was originally designed for the government, which offers users anonymity and provides for a fully encrypted web experience. Some extremely privacy-conscious folk use Tor to access the regular internet, so search engines and websites can’t track them. To clarify, although Tor is the most popular tool for accessing the dark web, there’s nothing wrong with Tor at all, and, while we think it’s unlikely, it sure is possible that the service’s popularity could catch on with the general public as our data privacy becomes increasingly harder to protect.
Once you’ve accessed the dark web, the experience is pretty darn similar to the regular (surface) internet with search engines; webpages; message boards; eCommerce sites that have ratings, reviews, and shopping carts; blog posts; news aggregation services; and even social media sites.
Yup, you read that right. The dark web has its own version of Facebook, known as Blackbook.
In fact, the main differences you’ll see between our regular, everyday web and the dark web are that:
And, of course, when you go to shop for something, it’s possible to buy drugs, guns, and stolen credit card credentials.
In short: You can think of the dark web as a bizarro version of the normal internet that seems like it’s transmitting over a 56K modem. Weird, right?
Get the rest of the information on the dark web when you read Part 2 of this series, coming soon. Part 2 will include information on how you can protect yourself and your business from the dark web; how a network services team can help secure your company’s data, so it doesn’t end up on the dark web; and what steps you can take to strengthen your business’s cybersecurity.
Don’t want to wait for the next article? Ready to start proactively protecting your business from the dark web right now? One of Seattle’s longest-standing IT Managed Services Providers, Interplay, can help you identify your network vulnerabilities, patch them, and develop a comprehensive network security plan that keeps your business secure.