What is the Dark Web?

28th August 2019

We’ve all very likely heard this term at some point, whether it’s an advert, news article, or a YouTuber ‘living on the edge’ and accessing it.

If you haven’t heard of the dark web, then I’d bet you’re still at the very least subconsciously aware of it. Criminal activity is most prominent on there, so when you think of people doing underground deals on the internet, or buying guns etc, its usually there.

We could talk all day and beyond about the dark web, but most of it would be irrelevant to the average person and their business.

 

What should you know?

It’s important you understand a bit about it though and to start, the internet consists of 3 layers:

Surface Web

Deep Web

Dark Web

Most of us have only ever seen the top layer, known as the surface web. This is what you use on a daily basis. Its where your own website and Facebook etc reside, plus any mainstream internet browser or search engine you decide to use such as Google, will operate by default on this. You literally cannot go wrong with it and wont accidentally end up anywhere else other than the surface web (although the surface web isn’t necessarily all safe, as you know!). What’s most surprising is when we think about how immensely vast the surface web actually is, it’s still only around 5% of the entire internet and the rest is taken up with the deep web – now that is truly mind boggling!

The deep web is the middle (yet the largest) layer. In simple terms, its somewhere that Google can’t go and is almost like an archive for unsorted websites, or a company intranet (a private internal internet, not accessible to anyone outside of the organisation) or a government website not intended for public use. Its like a messy filing cabinet that wont ever be cleaned up and actually has no need to be either.

The dark web, this is where things get a little scary and most of today’s cyber criminals operate on there. It’s a very small portion of the deep web, so far as Google still doesn’t go anywhere near it, but can be directly accessed by using special software. Now at this point, its probably worth throwing in a little disclaimer that we absolutely, under no circumstances recommend anyone ‘has a look’ or ‘just wants to see what its like’. If you’re that interested, just stay on the good old surface web and do a few Google searches to find some pictures of what a typical site in the dark web might look like, or even watch a YouTube video. You don’t need to access it directly and you don’t want to, it’s a very dangerous place. Criminals choose to operate here because believe it or not, its more secure (if you know what you’re doing). Communications are encrypted, IP addresses are much harder to trace and user location is hidden in much the same way a VPN works. This is why authorities have such a hard time in pinpointing criminals on there, plus with the fact they deal in Bitcoin, there’s often little to no data trail left.

 

 How does this affect you?

Good question! Let’s try and summarise the important bits that you should know.

Your personal and customer data is extremely valuable to you, but it’s also indirectly valuable to a criminal as well. They know you need it and that your business depends on it, so will revert to some very underhand tactics to get it. This is where the dark web comes in, millions of personal details are sold on here daily and these can range from anything such as bank account numbers, to email account passwords. If your own passwords or secure customer data has made it onto here, criminals can use them to their advantage for several reasons. They’re clever and if for example they had an email account and password, will often put forwarders on your incoming mail so that they get a copy of everything. They’ll learn the way you speak, waiting for that ripe moment where a large invoice is due to be paid and then intercept it, change the bank account details and send it on. The whole time this is happening, nobody knows they’re there and your clients think its you they’re communicating with.

This is just one example, but it all stems from the dark web and the information you’ve involuntarily had placed on there.

 

What can you do to protect yourself and how do you know if your details are for sale?

There are many ‘basic’ things you can do to protect yourself, such as using a VPN when using public WiFi at a hotel for example. Use complex passwords and never repeat the same password for multiple accounts – a password manager can assist with this, such as Dashlane and you’ll never need to remember a password again.

As to whether your details are for sale on the dark web? This is where we can help you. We use state of the art tools that will search the dark web for any email or domain address and tell us if it’s been breached, when it was discovered on there, what the password is and quite often the source of this data leak. It’s very powerful and has been eye opening to many clients we’ve assisted.

If you would like a scan of your email and company domain, feel free to get in touch and we’ll happily run one to see whether you’re more famous on the internet than you realise!