Contrary to what most internet users believe, only about four percent of the web is actually visible to the average person. That means approximately 96% of the world’s biggest public network remains in the dark, access only through TOR. And as we know, this is where many of today’s exploits, attacks, and malicious plots are hatched, away from the prying eyes of authorities and other agencies.
The surface web, also known as the clearnet, is composed of many websites that can be easily browsed and indexed by search engines. The deep web is also a public area of the internet, but can only be reached through a certain level of authentication. The dark web, however, is the deepest level of the world wide web, reachable only through a Tor-based browser. Illegal activities are rampant on the darknet, where users sell everything from gold-plated guns, to piles of cocaine, to kiddie porn, to the personal information of private citizens.
One of the growing industries on the darknet is “hacking for hire,” where anyone can make contact with bad actors looking to earn some crypto. These black hats hang out in certain illegal forums and are willing to take on just about any digital challenge in the name of profit. In the name of security, this article will not reveal the names of these hacking websites, only a description of how they operate.
One malicious hacking services site is operated by a Russian community. Their community covers wide-ranging topics from common credit card information theft to botnet creation to electronic penetration to password cracking. Oh, and don’t forget their skills in devising Distributed Denial of Service Attacks, malware development, ID counterfeiting, and other questionable web development practices. The Russian site is always up and running and has an estimated 5,000 active users. Its forum resembles that of Reddit, as it offers the users various subforums to browse for more information about a particular hacking activity or exploit.
People can install a Tor-enabled browser and visit these hacking services sites pretty easily. All they need to do as new users are register for an account, much as you would when setting up a legitimate Gmail or Facebook account. The sign-up process requires some basic information about the user, which is then collected and authenticated.
The darknet is like a colony of living organisms, as revealed by Hyperion Gray, an R&D company. They have released a virtual map of the dark web, which shows how its various sites are organized. A thumbnail version exists online.
According to Hyperion Gray, the snapshot was accurate as of January 2018. Each tiny dot is one known website on the darknet. Their rendered snapshot contains 6,608 dark websites which they were able to crawl using their proprietary technology. Some categories of these nefarious websites include:
- Social Media
Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat are a few known surface web social media sites. The dark web has its own counterpart to the above-mentioned services. Dark web social media is focused on the discussion of illegal activities and the facilitation of unlawful trading of products and services.
Terrorist organizations don’t use the public internet for communication. They are protecting themselves from the Prism counter-intelligence network of the United States and other nations. They use the dark web to plan their actions without the watchful eye of the intelligence community.
- Phishing and scam services
Phishing-for-hire services are available to customers looking to hire someone on the darknet to perform a phishing attack against a target on their behalf. This is a popular and profitable service for scammers, as clients are usually hiring their services for corporate and government espionage.
- Conspiracy Theories
With the growth of the public web comes with acceptance of certain facts about science and technology. Conspiracy theories which have lost their footing on the surface web have now taken root in the chat rooms of the darknet, where loyal audiences are waiting to share thoughts.
- Fraud Services
Illegal substances and banned items are now being sold at auction prices, almost always in crypto form. Fraud services are growing as more government regulations are created. With GDPR implemented by the EU, fraud services are expected to grow in the Dark Web as sites for such purpose migrate to it from the public web.
- Cryptocurrency services
Terrorist, scammers, and virus authors love cryptocurrencies. It is a non-government supported virtual coin for trading any merchandise with zero government regulations. Money laundering is thriving with the use of cryptocurrency for buying and selling illegal products and services.