The Internet – what would we do without it? From work-related research, to online shopping and a whole lot in between, “logging on” is a daily routine for most of us…and for a lot of us, online activity is productive and innocent. For the criminally intent, use of the Internet is also productive, but definitely not innocent. Cyber criminals can and will steal corporate data, wreak havoc with phishing schemes, breach company credentials and a myriad of other illegal activity via the “dark web.”

Over the next few entries, we’ll take a look at the “dark web” – it’s meaning, it’s danger to businesses and individuals, and ways to protect yourself from those who use the Internet for ill- gotten gain.

So…what is the dark web?

The dark web refers to a wide number of encrypted networks that are inaccessible unless you have special tools and protocols.

Known best for its bad reputation, the dark web has been popularized for its connection to unlawful online activities. You’ve probably heard it referenced on television shows and movies – and never in a good way!

A lot of the information found on the dark web is, to say the least, unsavory, but the information coveted by cyber criminals include:

  • Credit card numbers (yours, not theirs!)
  • Social Security numbers
  • Passports
  • Health records
  • Financial statements

The dark web can’t be accessed on a standard web browser like Safari or Google Chrome. A special network is needed to make all activities completely untraceable and anonymized, the most popular being The Onion Router (Tor).

This open source software program was originally developed for the U.S. Navy to protect government communications; it allows users to protect their privacy and security against a common form of surveillance known as traffic analysis, and also lets them conduct confidential business. In addition to the military, Tor is commonly used by journalists, law enforcement officers, activists and others. So, while information on the dark web is not all nefarious or illegal, there are still many with bad intentions who take advantage of this technology that offers total anonymity while hosting or browsing data on the dark web.

Pretty much anything can be bought on the dark web, from drugs and guns to counterfeit money and stolen subscription credentials and software that can provide access into other people’s personal computers.

Although “hidden” from the majority of the public, make no mistake that the dark web is very real and poses a significant threat to its targeted individuals and businesses.

In fact, a cybercriminal can purchase any number of password-cracking programs and buy or even rent so-called exploit kits containing attack tools. Cybercrime in the dark web is thriving because the activity is untraceable and can go unnoticed for long periods of time. Also, people can be hired through third parties to conduct attacks, adding yet another layer of anonymity. Next time, we’ll take a deeper dive into demystifying the dark web and the many dangers it poses to business owners and individuals.