Contrary to popular belief, the vast majority of the internet is not visible to the average user. In fact, regular online surfers are only seeing about four percent of what’s really there. So, where’s the rest? According to that statistic, approximately 96% of the world’s biggest public network sits in relative darkness and can only be accessed through a TOR browser. And considering most people don’t use this software, nor do they know where to find it, this hidden place known as the “darknet” has become the perfect environment for hatching exploits of all kinds—away from the scrutinizing gaze of the authorities.
The surface web, also known as the clearnet, is the regular, old internet most people see when visiting websites, which can be readily browsed and indexed through search engines like Google or Bing. Then there is the deep web, otherwise known as the part of the internet protected by passwords and other security measures. Without the proper authentication, it is impossible to access these areas. And of course, there is the dark web, also known as the darknet, which is only reachable through Tor-based software, which places itself like invisible layer over the top of the Clearnet and reveals the hidden corners within. Illegal activities are rampant on the darknet, where users sell everything from gold-plated guns, to piles of cocaine to kiddie porn to the personal information of private citizens. No matter where you are on the darknet, you are likely only one click away from a shocking video of bestiality.
One of the hottest new services on the darknet is “hackers for hire,” who will gladly connect with you about how to make someone’s life a living hell. They might happily extract information or personal details from that person, or perhaps just dox them around the ears. Whatever you want as long as they are paid in cryptocurrency. These cybercriminals hang out in specific darknet forums and are ready to take on just about any digital maleficence you can think of, as long as profit is involved. Of course, these forums cannot be named here, but have no doubt, they are real.
One such hacking-for-hire site is operated on the darknet by a Russian community who engages in a wide range of services like credit card theft to botnet creation to electronic penetration to password cracking. Oh, and don’t forget their skills in devising Distributed Denial of Service Attacks, malware development, ID counterfeiting, and other questionable web development practices. This site has a healthy following of over 5,000 active users. Its forum resembles that of Reddit, offering visitors access to subforums where they can look for more details on how to arrange a certain hacking deal.
While all of this behavior is illegal, it is really not particularly well hidden. In fact, anyone can easily install a TOR-enabled browser and visit these hacking sites themselves; it just takes a few minutes to download the software. Just register for an account, much as you would when setting up something in Google, provide some light personal details, and you’re off to the races. But be careful… the darknet is like a colony of living organisms, none of which have your best interest in mind.
The darknet expert, Hyperion Gray, recently released a virtual map of darknet’s “beauty and horror,” which can be found on their site. According to them, they used their proprietary technology to crawl the network and provide a fully accurate snapshot, as of January 2018. Each tiny dot represents one known website on the darknet, and there appear to be about 6,608 of them present. Categories include:
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat are a few known surface web social media sites. The dark web has its own counterpart to the above-mentioned services. Dark web social media is focused on the discussion of illegal activities and the facilitation of unlawful trading of products and services.
Terrorist organizations don’t use the public internet for communication. They are protecting themselves from the Prism counter-intelligence network of the United States and other nations. They use the dark web to plan their actions without the watchful eye of the intelligence community.
Phishing and scam services
Phishing-for-hire services are available to customers looking to hire someone on the darknet to perform a phishing attack against a target on their behalf. This is a popular and profitable service for scammers, as clients are usually hiring their services for corporate and government espionage.
With the growth of the public web comes with acceptance of certain facts about science and technology. Conspiracy theories which have lost their footing on the surface web have now taken root in the chat rooms of the darknet, where loyal audiences are waiting to share thoughts.
Illegal substances and banned items are now being sold at auction prices, almost always in crypto form. Fraud services are growing as more government regulations are created. With GDPR implemented by the EU, fraud services are expected to grow in the Dark Web as sites for such purpose migrate to it from the public web.
Terrorist, scammers, and virus authors love cryptocurrencies. It is a non-government supported virtual coin for trading any merchandise with zero government regulations. Money laundering is thriving with the use of cryptocurrency for buying and selling illegal products and services.