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The Dark Web

The Dark Web. It’s what a lot of Managed Services Providers, tech companies, the Police and media are talking about, but why and what is it all about?

Within this article we look to explain all about the Dark Web, why it exists and how you can help protect yourself against it.

What is the dark web?

The internet has three key areas to it: surface web, deep web, and dark web. The surface web makes up about 10% of the whole internet – not as much as you might think. An example of surface web is the information you would find using a search engine such as Google.

The deep web (despite the sinister name) is simply where information, that is not easily accessible by anyone, is stored. This includes anything information protected by a password, which includes software services such as Office 365, bank accounts and member protected areas of websites. The deep web makes up the majority of the internet.

The dark web is information which is not accessible by standard web browsers. Any type of information can reside on the dark web, it’s merely dark because of its more limited accessibility – not because of the type of content.

When was it created?

The original internet, ARPANET, sent its first message in 1969. As you can imagine, it didn’t take long for the dark web to start once the internet has started. So the dark web has been round for a very long time.

This begs the question ‘why all the fuss now?’. Put simply, it’s because we store and access so much more data, including financial data, online now which is valuable to thieves. We keep our money in digits online and not in cash.

How do I get on the dark web?

You might be thinking why would I want to access the dark web and is it illegal? The answer is no. What could be illegal is what you download or purchase once you are on the dark web.

The most popular method of accessing the dark web is with the TOR anonymous browser. This browser can be downloaded just like Internet Explorer or Google Chrome, but it works in a different way.

TOR stands for “The Onion Router” which refers to the way it works. Internet activity via TOR must travel through different overlay networks, or layers (like an onion), each of which helps encrypt the traffic from your computer. Because of these extra layers of security, TOR works slower than regular browsers. Many TOR users also recommend using a VPN simultaneously for maximum privacy.

TOR itself is not the dark web, it is merely a tool for browsing the dark web. With TOR, you can access all the same content you usually do in a secure manner — or you can use the dark web. That’s where .onion suffix websites come in. If you see this ending to a website address (instead of .com, .uk and so on) that means it’s dark web, and you’ll need the TOR browser to access it. Sites with the .onion suffix won’t show up in regular search engines, even if you’re using TOR.

What is the dark web used for?

The dark web is used for extreme online privacy, not just for illegal transactions. You can mail order drugs from around the world and download credit card numbers, but you can also login to Facebook or read the news.

This could be useful in countries within the Middle East and Far East, where many popular websites, like Facebook and Twitter, are censored. Using TOR to access blocked sites, and furthermore, using dark web .onion versions (when available) can ensure your access and ultimate privacy. Journalists and protestors against governmental oppression have also made use of private online tools like TOR and the dark web.

Why is this important to your organisation?

Data has a value on the dark web, so hackers are incentivised to steal it. This is why protecting your data and having a strategy on IT security and compliance is so important.

Furthermore, when large organisations such as LinkedIn are hacked, your data is captured, sold and shared to anyone. This information (passwords and data extracted from these larger hacks ) is then used to try and access more personal data such as your bank account or internal network. Many people’s passwords are similar across sites and hackers know this.

Dark web is the future

For criminals the dark web has become the future. Cybercrime is rising at rapid rates worldwide whilst traditional physical theft is falling. As a business it has never been more of a critical time to ensure your data and IT systems are secure.

 

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