You’ve probably heard of the Dark Web with so many data breaches in the news. But what is the Dark Web? Think of the Dark Web as an online black market. It’s a place where you can purchase drugs, counterfeit bills, forged college degrees, fake passports, weapons, credit card numbers, hacked social media accounts, and stolen Netflix logins – all anonymously. You can even buy access to bank accounts or hire a computer hacker to infiltrate a computer or network on your behalf.
When bad actors set their sights on a target, they routinely place the data they exfiltrate on the Dark Web. Using anonymous, dark places on the Dark Web, cybercriminals will post their loot for sale for anyone to purchase. When your information is involved in a breach, you need to be concerned about more than the cybercriminal who stole it. You also need to be concerned about the various other bad actors who may purchase it from the Dark Web again and again.
However, not everything on the Dark Web is depraved. The Dark Web is a forum that enables free speech. Essentially, the Dark Web is a catch-all term for anything not found online through popular web browsers and internet searches. Most estimates are that the Dark Web makes up about 5% of the Internet. However, nobody knows for sure how big the Dark Web is, but it’s extensive and proliferating.
You may have also heard about the Deep Web and wondered what that is. Sometimes people use the terms Deep Web and Dark Web interchangeably, but they have different meanings. The Deep Web houses data that isn’t indexed and therefore isn’t searchable by Google. Deep Web content is anything that requires a paid subscription (think Netflix) or requires sign-in credentials (like your bank account or Gmail). The Deep Web includes content that its owners have blocked from being indexed from public searches. Examples of Deep Web content also include:
Deep Web content makes up most of the Internet. Some estimate its volume at 96-99%. Only a tiny fraction of what is freely searchable online, known as the Surface Web or Clearnet, is available to the public. So, think of the Dark Web as a subset of the Deep Web.
How does someone access the Dark Web? You need a specific web browser. Anyone can access the Dark Web with what’s called a Tor browser. Tor is an acronym for The Onion Router. It uses multiple connection relays to keep your connection as private and secure as possible. The Tor browser is free and easy to download. It’s completely legal to download, install, and use – provided you’re not using it for nefarious purposes.
Aside from accessing the Dark Web, Tor helps people who live in places with limits on free speech to communicate. Since Tor creates an anonymous communications channel, it’s ideal for people concerned about eavesdropping or where Internet access is illegal. Interestingly, the US government created the Tor browser and later made it available to the public. Initially, the Tor browser helped to anonymize the identity of US Naval intelligence agents. There are also Tor alternatives, including Brave, Vivaldi, and Epic Browser.
You might wonder what the Dark Web is like. Two words describe it best – hot mess. Performance is slow, everyone is anonymous, and navigation isn’t easy. If you’re old enough to remember what web performance was like in the 1990s, that’s what a visit resembles.
Web sites on the Dark Web often look like many on the Surface Web. However, there are some notable differences. For instance, the URLs don’t end with .com, .net, or .org. They end with .onion. Dark Web sites also have a scrambled naming structure, making them nearly impossible to remember. A website could be something like p09ej039u4qnpkgas9020.onion.
So, what can you buy on the Dark Web? Lots. With bitcoin, here are a few items you could buy:
People who buy do so at their own risk. There’s no guarantee that what you’re purchasing is what you’ll get. And if you have a problem, good luck reaching any resolution. Because scammers run so many Dark Web sites, it’s not uncommon for them to be here one day and gone the next. Scammers tend to suddenly close shop and run with the money, even before they deliver goods to the customer.
You may have information on the Dark Web. Unfortunately, no one can guarantee that your information will never reach the Dark Web. If you do visit (which we don’t advise), and you find your information on the Dark Web, it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to do anything about it. But you will at least know you’ve been compromised and can take steps to help protect yourself from further impact. Despite how careful we may be with our data, the information we entrust to other organizations is vulnerable if they become compromised.
So, what can you do to mitigate the dangers of the Dark Web? Always aim to stay a step ahead. You can do this by:
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