An inside look at the dark web.
If you have an interest in all things digital you may have heard of the dark web, well since my last blog ‘A hacker’s playground’ I thought it would be interesting to experiment.
The internet is a much, much bigger place than you probably realise. You know about Facebook, Google, BBC iPlayer and Amazon, but do you know what’s lurking beyond those user-friendly and respectable websites? This is nothing but a tiny corner of the internet, and the Dark Web looms in much shadier corners.
In 1969 a university student, Charley Kline, sends a message to a computer through the ARPANET, an internet platform created and developed by the Pentagon. This platform was to be anonymous amongst users to share confidential and classified data. As years went by more users latched on to APARNET to share copyrighted files and illegal goods. Bitcoin an online currency was introduced in 2009 making it possible for users to trade within the dark web unknown.
How it works…
The dark web functions on an encrypted network that is not searchable with normal search engines, in fact, you must download a specific browser to view the dark web. The browser called The Onion Router (or ‘Tor’ for short) was developed by the U.S naval research lab in 2002 allows users to hide their IP address.
A dark experiment
I downloaded the browser to find out what all the fuss was about, a little nervous I started up the browser, Tor indicated 3 options of security and protection, I went with the safest. Tor runs within the browser a virtual private network (VPN) add-on so you are unknown to whoever is lurking in the darkness.
At first, the default search engine is displayed, not Google or Yahoo but Duck Duck Go. What do you search for on the dark web? I had heard you can buy anything on the dark web so I started to search for illegal drugs but nothing came up in the results. It seemed the dark web mirrored the normal web? Until I researched further and found that there are specific URL’s dedicated to shady sites – these are called onion links and can be found via a site called Hidden Wiki. Instantly I had access to merchant sites selling a cocktail of drugs, large quantities of cocaine, marijuana and other contraband. I scrolled further down to reveal weaponry from AK-47’s to M16’s and began to realise how easy it was to trade on the dark web. Payment is made through a cryptocurrency that keeps the your identity and transactions under wraps and I was amazed you can hire anyone to do just about anything. (As a side note, cryptocurrencies are worth a blog post on their own. I won’t go into the detail here but you can find out more on wikipedia.)
In the UK alone thousands now rely on the dark web to buy drugs which are posted through the various British postal services daily, making it even easier for the drug trade to flourish.
I felt like a character out of Alice in Wonderland as I delved through the dark web, and various online markets available. I only scratched the surface but I am sure – like everything – there is a deeper underworld that only a few know of.
Knowing the dark web and the other malicious activities that can occur online makes us extra vigilant to the dangers the web can hold. To help our clients keep their websites and digital properties safe we offer a robust security packages that works tirelessly to ward of attacks and monitor activity to prevent the worst from happening. Get in touch today if you’d like to find out more.