The dark web is the stuff of tech lore. Unless you have comprehensive expertise in coding and computers, your knowledge of the dark web may be as far as movie depictions go. However, there is a difference between fact and fiction.
Outside technological savants, the dark web is a mystery. Then again, it’s easy to fear what we don’t know. Most of what we—the general masses—know about the dark web is its cybercrime and unofficial dealings, hidden under a cloud of anonymity.
While the movies get a part of the truth right, there is a part of the dark web that is legal and safe. So, just how shady is the dark web? ;
What Is the Dark Web?
One can access the dark web only through specific browsers, software, or configurations. It may also require special authorization. Thus, under this system, private networks can communicate anonymously.
The dark web has been easily misconstrued to be the deep web, which generally cannot be indexed by search engines. But the dark web only forms a part of the deep web.
Threat to People
Although not as thrilling as some movies make it seem, hackers can find a way into your financial records. A single attack on a bank gives a perpetrator access to hundreds and thousands of credit reports, which was what happened when 140,000 social security numbers were compromised after CapitalOne Bank was hacked. To rouse media attention, hackers would sometimes target high-profile names. Finding a path within networks of data brokers, hackers were able to secure ID details of former first lady, Michelle Obama.
Threat to Businesses
Corporations are not immune from the threat of fraudulent criminals online. In 2019, 127 million records stolen from eight companies were sold online on Dream Market. The seller is only known through the alias “Gnosticplayers.” It is even unsure whether Gnosticplayers is an individual or a group of hackers working as one.
There can be a wide range as to how much a cyber attack could hurt a company. For some, finding an Office 365 backup restore point could do the job. But this is only when the company has done the precaution, with the help of professional security services. Businesses can no longer avoid the era of cloud storage, but at least recovery points and system backups provide the best line of defense.
Unfortunately, for others, data becomes irretrievable once encrypted and sold under a guise. Attacks cannot only be data theft; they can also be through a stubborn virus that could wipe out years of corporate data.
How Non-tech Savants Commit Crimes on the Dark Web
Hacking someone else’s Facebook account is what the IT guy may consider basic. But a simple hacking on social media already requires technical skill. From there, all the other forms of Internet fraud will require deeper technical knowledge and deception skills. For those who do not possess either of these abilities, there is always ransomware.
Simply, ransomware is holding someone’s online information for ransom. The attacker usually uses malicious software to encrypt data on the victim’s browser. For the victim to restore access to the files, the attacker would extort money in exchange for the decryption key.
So Is it Illegal to Dive Dark?
No, it is not. Technically speaking, accessing the dark web is not breaking the law. It has provided legal value for users who would otherwise be endangered if identified online. These include whistleblowers and abuse victims.
One may argue that users with ill motives are likewise using the dark web for these benefits. However, the dark web is no longer as deep as it once was. It is no longer impenetrable, as it was when Ross Ulbricht leisurely roamed around the “Silk Road,” his online drug cartel.
The Dark Web Getting Some Light
The dark web is the very concealed portion of the deep web, but much has changed over the years. Before, only cybercriminals and law enforcement officers could be found on the dark web. Now, through anonymization software such as Tor, anyone could find themselves on the dark web if they want to.
Many dark web browsers are users with no ill motives, simply looking for a fun place to pass the time. This wider landscape means perpetrators cannot be as anonymous as they want anymore.
Criminals will find a way to commit crimes. It doesn’t matter whether it’s in real life or online. With proper use, the dark web can be a safe space, where people can exchange ideas without the fear of judgment and criticism. And with just the right security tools and enough knowledge of its bounds, users can protect themselves from malicious attackers hiding in the corner.