Over the past few years we have seen a surge in cyber attacks against well-known organizations, each seemingly larger than the last. As cybercriminals look for innovative ways to penetrate corporate infrastructures, the challenges for brand owners to protect their IP has steadily grown. Fraudsters will stop at nothing to profit from a corporate entity’s security vulnerabilities, and the data they steal can fetch a hefty price in underground online marketplaces.

Whether it is a company with a large customer base that accesses and exchanges financial or personal information online, or a small brand that has IP assets to protect, no company is exempt. While banking and finance organizations are the most obvious targets, an increasing number of attacks are taking place on companies in other industries, from healthcare and retail to technology, manufacturing and insurance companies. Data breaches can have a damaging impact on a company’s internal IT infrastructure, financial assets, business partners and customers, to say nothing of the brand equity and customer trust that companies spend years building.

Battlegrounds: Deep Web and Dark Web

A common analogy for the full internet landscape is that of an iceberg, with the section of the iceberg above water level being the surface web, comprised of visible websites that are indexed by standard search engines. It is what most people use every day to find information, shop and interact online, but it accounts for only about four percent of the Internet.

The remaining sites are found in the Deep Web, which includes pages that are unindexed by search engines. A large proportion of this content is legitimate, including corporate intranets or academic resources residing behind a firewall.

However, some sites in the Deep Web also contain potentially illegitimate or suspicious content, such as phishing sites that collect user credentials, sites that disseminate malware that deliberately try to hide their existence, websites and marketplaces that sell counterfeit goods, and peer-to-peer sites where piracy often takes place. Consumers may unknowingly stumble upon these and are at risk of unwittingly releasing personal information or credentials to fraudulent entities.

Deeper still is the Dark Web, a collection of websites and content that exist on overlay networks whose IP addresses are completely hidden and require anonymizer software, such as Tor, to access. While there are a number of legitimate users of Tor, such as privacy advocates, journalists and law enforcement agencies, its anonymity also makes it an ideal foundation for illicit activity. Vast quantities of private information, such as log-in credentials, banking and credit card information, are peddled with impunity on underground marketplaces in the Dark Web.

Waking up to the Threats

The Deep Web and Dark Web have been in the public eye for some time, but in recent years, fraudsters and cybercriminals have been honing their tactics in these hidden channels to strike at their prey more effectively and minimize their own risk of being caught. The anonymity in the Dark Web allows this medium to thrive as a haven for cybercriminals, where corporate network login credentials can be bought and sold to the highest bidder, opening the door to a cyberattack that most companies are unable to detect or prevent.

While Deep Web sites are not indexed, consumers may still stumble upon them, unaware they have been redirected to an illegitimate site. The path to these sites are many: typosquatted pages with names that are close matches to legitimate brands; search engine ads for keywords that resolve to Deep Web sites; email messages with phishing links; or even mobile apps that redirect.

Moreover, as a higher volume of users learn the intricacies of Tor to access and navigate the Dark Web, the greater the scale of anonymity grows. More points in the Dark Web’s distributed network of relays makes it more difficult to identify a single user and track down cybercriminals. It’s like trying to find a needle in a haystack when the haystack continues to get larger and larger.

The Science and Strategy Behind Protection

Brands can potentially mitigate abuse in the Deep Web, depending on the site. If a website attempts to hide its identity from a search engine, there are technological solutions to uncover and address the abuse. Conventional tools commonly used by companies to protect their brands can also tackle fraudulent activity in the Deep Web, including takedown requests to ISPs, cease and desist notices and, if required, the Uniform Domain-Name Dispute-Resolution Policy (UDRP).

As for the Dark Web, where anonymity reigns and the illicit buying and selling of proprietary and personal information are commonplace, companies can arm themselves with the right technology and threat intelligence to gain visibility into imminent threats. Actively monitoring fraudster-to-fraudster social media conversations, for example, enables companies to take necessary security precautions prior to a cyberattack, or to prevent or lessen the impact of a future attack. In the event of a data breach where credit card numbers are stolen, threat intelligence can help limit the financial damage to consumers by revealing stolen numbers before they can be used and have them cancelled by the bank.

Technology can even help identify and efficiently infiltrate cybercriminal networks in the Dark Web that might otherwise take a considerable amount of manual human effort by a security analyst team. Access to technology can significantly lighten the load for security teams and anchor a more reliable and scalable security strategy.

In light of so many cyber threats, it falls to organizations and their security operations teams to leverage technology to identify criminal activity and limit financial liability to the company and irreparable damage to the brand.

Key Industries at Risk

A growing number of industries are now being targeted by cybercriminals, but there are tangible steps companies can take. For financial institutions, visibility into Dark Web activity yields important benefits. Clues for an impending attack might potentially be uncovered to save millions of dollars and stop the erosion of customer trust. Improved visibility can also help companies identify a person sharing insider or proprietary information and determine the right course of action to reduce the damage.

In the healthcare industry, data breaches can be especially alarming because they expose not only the healthcare organization’s proprietary data, but also a vast number of people’s medical information and associated personal information. This could include images of authorized signatures, email addresses, billing addresses and account numbers. Cybercriminals who use information like this can exploit it to compromise more data, such as social security numbers and private medical records. Credentials could even potentially lead to identities being sold.

Conclusion

Most organizations have implemented stringent security protocols to safeguard their IT infrastructure, but conventional security measures don’t provide the critical intelligence needed to analyze cyberattacks that propagate in the Deep Web and Dark Web. It is fundamentally harder to navigate a medium where web pages are unindexed and anonymity can hide criminal activity.

Meanwhile, cyberattacks on organizations across a wider number of sectors continue to surge, putting proprietary corporate information, trade secrets and employee network access credentials at risk. Businesses need to be aware of all threats to their IP in all areas of the Internet. Leveraging every available tool to monitor, detect and take action where possible is vital in addressing the threats that these hidden regions of the internet pose.

Author:  Charlie Abrahams

Source:  http://www.ipwatchdog.com/2016/12/14/brand-protection-deep-dark-web/id=75478

Categorized in Deep Web

When companies are hacked and their data is stolen, that data often appears for sale on the so-called darknet. Earlier this year, for example, user data from both the mega-hack of Yahoo (500 million accounts) and the uTorrent breach (400,000 accounts) showed up on the darknet’s illicit marketplaces. As InformationWeek recently put it, the darknet is “where your stolen identity goes to live.” Think of it as mass e-commerce for the black market (here’s a good primer).

And it isn’t a problem just for consumers. Valuable corporate assets — from intellectual property to pirated software to stolen code bases and other digital products — appear for sale on these marketplaces more and more. The darknet is enabling criminals to more easily profit from failures of corporate cybersecurity.

To better protect both their businesses and their users, company leaders need to familiarize themselves with the darknet and its threats and opportunities.

What Is the Darknet?

When many people think of “the internet” — websites, message boards, marketplaces, and so on — what they’re actually thinking of is the open web, or surface web. The open web is what you see when you start up a web browser and use a search engine to find what you’re looking for. Sites on the open web are accessible to anyone.

The darknet as a whole is much like the open web. It consists of websites, message boards, and marketplaces. But the darknet’s sites can’t be found with search engines, and they can only be accessed through anonymizing software such as Tor, which obscures the user’s IP address. This is useful for people who don’t want to give away their location and identity to internet service providers or other parties, such as government agencies, that can track network activity.

Of primary interest to corporate leaders is darknet marketplaces (DNMs). The first DMN to hit mainstream awareness was Silk Road, the black market for illegal drugs that was shut down by the FBI as part of a multiagency effort in 2013. New, more robust DMNs immediately took its place, and research indicates that DNMs continue to grow and thrive.

DNMs sell their products and services to an effectively anonymous clientele, who often buy with Bitcoin for even greater anonymity. The combination of Tor and Bitcoin has helped DNMs’ popularity explode.

Where the Darknet May Be Headed

As the darknet becomes mainstream, more people may decide to actively split their online activities between a public face on the open internet and a private face on the darknet. Our lives have become permeated with personalized services and technology, allowing strangers to see intimate details of our lives through social media and search engines. The kinds of anonymous environments provided by the darknet may offer an appealing escape.

As a result, HR and legal teams will need to come to terms with the fact that employees may have obscured digital identities. Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter profiles will contain nothing but inoffensive content and activity; any kind of controversial thought and digital engagement will move to “dark” spaces. Employers will have to adapt to the new reality that employee online activity will be harder to monitor, control, or enforce. The sunny days of getting a full picture of someone through their social media profiles may disappear into a darknet night.

Easy access to the darknet will also make it easier for anyone to sell corporate access and critical information without exposing themselves directly to the criminal underground. For example, it seems inevitable that insider information will become available on the darknet. How might corporations or executives be put under suspicion when sensitive information made available on the darknet moves stock prices in a way that benefits insiders?

How Can Businesses Limit Their Exposure to Darknet Risks?

Companies, already taxed with controlling access to systems, defending against cyberattacks, and keeping mission-critical systems online, need to start monitoring the darknet and DNMs. A corporation can be hit with a denial-of-service attack, even one initiated by a nontechnical person renting botnet time through a darknet market, at any time. And any employee with access to the Tor browser can solicit anonymous bids for sensitive corporate data, code, or access. The bar to accessing criminal technology and digital capabilities has never been lower.

Fortunately, as a consequence of the open-but-anonymous nature of DNMs, it is now easier for businesses to monitor the cyber criminal underground and react to potential threats and stolen assets. Which is exactly what happened, for example, when proprietary source code for PilotFish, a health care software vendor, appeared for sale on the DNM AlphaBay and was detected by the underground research team at infosec firm Infoarmor.

Here are the key points for companies about dealing with corporate darknet threats:

  • Use strong encryption on all sensitive data and keep the encryption approach up to date. Yesterday’s encryption methods quickly become obsolete, so make sure your IT department has an encryption strategy in place.

  • Build or hire a strong cyberthreat monitoring and reaction ability. Detecting an intrusion is critical to dealing with threats before they get out of control.

  • Monitor DNMs and the darknet in general for corporate-specific threats. There are firms emerging that specialize in identifying and reacting to darknet activity or that include darknet monitoring as part of their cybersecurity offerings.

  • Monitor employee hardware and network use and investigate darknet access.

  • Put a response plan in place to guide the corporate response to sensitive data or IP appearing on the darknet. Consider how you will deal with customers , legal issues, and stakeholders in the event of a breach.

Going forward, business leaders will need to think about darknet monitoring and analysis in a range of departments, from IT to legal to HR to marketing. As more corporations begin to take darknet issues seriously, information security firms dedicated to darknet analysis and monitoring will thrive and new business models will emerge to control, document, and react to threats either emerging from or facilitated by darknet technology. Business leaders take note: You live in interesting times.

Source : https://hbr.org

Auhtor : Andrew Delamarter

Categorized in Deep Web

It looks innocent enough, that little green "g" icon in the top corner of your computer screen — exactly like the old Google one. Except, it isn’t. On it you’ll find another world — a mire of avarice and lust, wrath and envy.

This is the Dark Web, or Dark Net, a manifestation of forbidden fantasies in pixels and binary coding, a search engine for sin.

Want to ferret money offshore illegally? Indulge sexual proclivities that aren’t discussed in polite society? Need a guy to do you a favour involving some kneecapping? The Dark Web offers it all, though clunkily.

In this case, that "g" refers to "Grams" — a search engine on the Dark Net, for all the different marketplaces that exist in this more open but hidden corner of the Internet.

Type in an innocuous word such as "light", and these are the results: a bargain rate on 1g of light brown heroin (from a trusted dealer in Norway), or an LED lamp guaranteed to help you clone credit cards.

If you’re looking for something specific — say, cocaine, heroin, fake IDs, stolen bank cards,  counterfeit money, or even prescription drugs — it’s all here, accessible even from the southern tip of Africa.

On one level, the Dark Net is a libertarian’s dream, a thumping triumph of free-market principles unfettered by nosy government or any other intervention whatsoever. Only, put this argument under a microscope, and it starts to unravel.

On some Dark Net sites, it’s a bit of a Kafkaesque twist on Amazon.

Marketplaces with names like Agora, The Majestic Garden, Oasis, AlphaBay and Hansa offer anything from a tutorial on how to become a fake Uber driver (only 99c), instructions on how to make a bomb to a how-to on forging a UK passport.

Is the new guy in the office stealing your thunder? Is a politician stressing you out? No problem — hire a hitman, who’ll break bones to specifications — US$3,000 to maim someone, $10,000 to assassinate him. Up to $180,000 if he’s high-profile.

There are other, perhaps more surprising, criminal activities.

For example, company officials sell information to traders, which allows them to make a killing by insider trading. (Imagine, for example, what those who knew of Nhlanhla Nene’s sacking weeks in advance could have made?)

While you might think SA is so far behind the digital curve that this is purely of academic interest, many of these services are available in this country. And the Dark Net provides an equally alluring avenue for SA’s crooks to peddle their products — extending their reach globally to make a killing.

The Hawks, the priority crime directorate inside the SA Police Service, told the Financial Mail that between 8,000 and 9,000 South Africans routinely use the Dark Net. And that number is growing.

"Especially when you consider the sort of crimes, it’s heinous. It’s not petty theft, it is all your socially damaging crimes — child pornography, drug trade, human trafficking, renting a hitman," says one officer.

This increase in SA means the Dark Net is "starting to look like a threat" to society, the Hawks add.

To get a better understanding of how real this threat is, the Financial Mail spent the past month trawling various websites inside the Dark Net. What we found was alarming.

On the Hansa marketplace, you’ll find a vendor selling a strain of weed called Royal Swazi, shipped from SA.

There, 60g will set you back $150 (R2,100), which is many times what street dealers would get locally.

An Amazon-style website provides a detailed description of how it is grown near Piggs Peak in Swaziland, and a list of terms and conditions that seem rather odd for a website operating on the fringes of legality.

As an evidently civic-minded dope dealer, for example, it specifies "no under-21s", and asserts the "right to cancel" any order — though one wonders which court it would approach to invoke that right. And it promises to deliver within 35 days.

As data intelligence consultancy Terbium Labs explains in a report this month: "The Dark Net drug trade, if we can call it that, is far more organised and mundane than you might expect ... reviews follow a standard template, where users rank the stealth, shipping time, purity, high, and overall experience."

Surf over to another website, and an SA vendor offers to ship 20g of amphetamine sulphate (a variation of "tik") for $285. Like a traditional Amazon webpage, the feedback section has gushing reviews from users.

Evidently, some SA merchants are now making a killing thanks to the Dark Net. On the other side of the coin, experts say a large number of South Africans are using the Dark Net to buy products too, including drugs.

This isn’t as difficult as you might think. You use special software and a special Web browser (usually Tor) to mask your identity and location.

From there, it’s easy pickings.

Most websites say they deliver worldwide. Vendors who deliver to SA include companies that peddle MDMA (ecstasy), fake €50 notes, drivers’ licences and ID cards for most nationalities, and fake credit cards.

In other instances, SA-issued bank cards, with their pins, are being sold, listing the amount available in the account for criminals seeking to duplicate the cards. [Typically, you pay 10% of what’s in the account].

While "assassination websites" aren’t hard to find, it’s unclear whether these "hits" are actually carried out. The "Besa Mafia" site, which offered to "kill people or beat the shit out of him", turned out to be an elaborate scam to swindle Bitcoins.

However, at least one other assassination website offered its services in SA, though it warned it didn’t offer an "extensive service" in this country.

The man behind the largest search engine on the Dark Net, who spoke to the Financial Mail (but who asked not to be named), says the amount of money being spent on the Dark Net makes it a huge global market.

"These dark markets are serious players. When you are dealing with seven or eight-figure dollar values — more than $1m — and (the markets are getting between) 5% and 10% commission, that’s significant money."

SA, he says, is still far behind other global destinations for Dark Net commerce, with not too many SA credit cards being found on the websites.

One reason, he says, is that shipping to and from SA is more risky. "It is very difficult to participate in these dark markets [as an SA] merchant, but as a buyer there is this total problem [that] shipping to SA sucks — it’s awful and that in a way has protected it."

In the US, he says, shipping happens through private agencies like FedEx.

"Now if you ship to SA, no-one is going to pay the overhead of shipping, so they will put it in a standard box and send it. But now you are entering the government space [as the Post Office is state-owned]," he says.

So what, in fact, is the Dark Net?

Perhaps most literally, it is the Internet below the Internet you know. Most people don’t know it, but the Internet they use — Google, company websites, news sites or banking sites — represents just 1% of the entire Internet traffic out there.

Prof Martin Olivier from the University of Pretoria’s computer science department, compares the traditional World Wide Web to driving around Sandton: you see the corporate headquarters of SA’s top companies but you know that inside those buildings are areas that are access-controlled, which you don’t see.

Those access-controlled areas are a deeper layer most people don’t see, known as the Deep Web. One layer below that, even more hidden, is the Dark Net.

Olivier says the Dark Net is like islands in the sea of the Internet, unlinked to anything else, a perfect place to hide anything known only to the person who hid it and whoever he shared it with. "It is like any secret place: what you do with it depends on what your motives are."

For criminals, the attraction is obvious.

As Troels Oerting, a director of European crime fighting agency Europol, told Jane’s Intelligence Review in 2014: "[Buyers can] get the illegal commodity delivered risk-free to a place of their choice by the mailman or a courier, or maybe by drone in the future, and can pay with virtual currency and in full anonymity, without the police being able to identify either the buyer or the seller."

What makes the Dark Net dark is the hidden service protocol, which lets anyone make a website or messaging server to communicate anonymously. Normally an authority can take a website down for breaking the law, but on the Dark Net a site remains up because there is no central figure with the power to take it down.

On any given day, there are about 4,000 hidden services available on the Dark Net, 40% more than four years ago. But Dark Net sites are ephemeral — on and off constantly, never all on at the same time. Tor is used by about 2m people a day while about 250,000 people a day make use of the hidden services search engine, says one Dark Net operator.

By sharing your site’s public key, a 16-digit address made up of numbers and letters, you invite people to your site. For example, journalism service ProPublica (which is legal) uses the key: propub3r6espa33w.onion.

While the hitmen, drugs and porn dealers are obviously the most eye-catching corners of the Deep Web, not all of it is illegal.

A study released this month by Terbium Labs that looked at 400 sites shows that 54.5% of all content on the Dark Net is legal: security warnings, political party activism, community groups for people who distrust the authorities.

Some more notable sites include WikiLeaks (a legal site) or Sci-Hub (less legitimate, if more benign than some), which provides 58m academic papers free-of-charge, which were taken from institutions. Surprisingly, the Dark Net has extensive eBook libraries on subjects as un-criminal as investigative journalism.

Of the rest, illegal drugs accounted for 12%, pharmaceutical drugs (like human growth hormone) 3%, illicit marketplaces (where anything from drugs to porn are sold) 6.5%, hacking (selling ransomware kits or other tools) 1.25% and another 1.25% are concerned with outright fraud (selling bank accounts, for example).

Then, most distressingly, 1% involves a category called "exploitation" – sites targeted at children. "This is a legitimate and real concern on the Dark Net and is not as infrequent as you might hope it to be," say the Terbium researchers.

The paedophiles are, with good reason, the most reviled of the Dark Web’s communities, serving an estimated global network of 500,000 people.

Says one Dark Net operator: "These guys have serious emotional problems.

"They have all these levelling systems [which measure trust between users] and they are creating original content. They are serious producers of child pornography and they charge a lot of money."

This, to many, is the real disease of the Dark Net. "It is overwhelmingly infested with the dregs of society, looking for children in pain, and that is the hardest thing to come to grips with: that the majority of users are looking for abused children," he says.

The libertarian notion that the Dark Net is simply about free "choice" is demolished by the fact that it is largely a refuge for some of the most wicked elements of society.

Stock manipulation is also a growing market. On one site, says the operator, you would pay a buy-in fee to collude with other traders to pump and dump stocks.

The Hawks, which has a cybercrime unit dedicated to trawling the Dark Net for illicit behaviour, believes a large number of the 8,000 to 9,000 South Africans who use it do so for criminal purposes.

Brigadier Piet Pieterse, head of the Hawks unit, says that in SA the Dark Net is mostly used to share images of child pornography, mass marketing fraud, sell drugs and barter illegally obtained credit card information.

Pieterse says the applications of what the Dark Net could be used for are endless. It could hypothetically disrupt SA’s already fraught government tender processes, giving buyers an advantage.

Other policemen say it is surprising how often classified government documents are posted on the Dark Net.

An officer in Pieterse’s unit (who did not want to be named as it could compromise his investigations) says many people — even in government — just don’t understand the threat the Dark Net poses for SA.

"No-one really understands what it is about and the impact it has," she adds.

Either way, the Dark Net has the potential to do deep damage in a society where the law-enforcement authorities are already struggling to investigate and hold criminals accountable for crime in the physical world.

Incidents of South Africans seeing their computers "hijacked" and then "ransomed" back to them by hackers are also becoming more common.

Typically, the computer freezes and a message pops up saying that if the users want all their files to be "released", they need to pay a specific amount in Bitcoins to a specified e-wallet. These ransomware kits are frequently sold on the Dark Net, often by Russian or East European hacking outfits. As Time magazine reported, these hackers are not going after the heavily fortified systems of banks or corporations but "straight for easy targets: small businesses, schools, hospitals, and computer users like us".

How are they getting away with it?

What’s most extraordinary about the Dark Net is that this illicit trade is being conducted under the noses of law enforcement agencies across the world, who seem powerless to stop it.

Intuitively, you’d imagine police should be able to track purchases and effect arrests down the supply chain. But it’s not that simple. Sellers post goods using vacuum-sealed fingerprint-free bags (often dipped in bleach as a further precaution), with printed labels. About 90% of shipments get through, The Economist has estimated.

For extra security, merchants change their Web addresses from time to time to keep unwarranted snoops (journalists or cops) away. The URLs aren’t straight-forward, using a jumble of letters and numbers.

The Tor browser, which hides the user’s location and masks what someone is searching for, introduces an added challenge for the police. Olivier uses the analogy of passing a letter in an envelope around a circle of anonymous people in different locations in which each person puts the letter in another envelope – making it impossible to tell where it originated from.

The distribution network works so well because it relies on a system of favours and trust – the old "honour among thieves". Criminals feel comfortable there, say the Hawks, because they "trust each other".

So, someone can order cocaine from one of the US marketplaces for delivery in Johannesburg. Payment is made through a crypto currency — most often, Bitcoins, which is a decentralised, anonymous and reputable transaction gateway which isn’t controlled by an accountable central institution. Bitcoins are then deposited into a seller’s "virtual wallet" and within a short time the drugs are delivered.

Says a Hawks officer: "The guy delivering the drugs is unlikely to know what he is dropping off or why. He most likely doesn’t have criminal intent but he got a call asking him to make the delivery if he wants his debt forgiven."

Yet the Dark Net isn’t entirely accountability-free, as the case of Silk Road illustrates. Silk Road was the most popular black market website, flogging everything from drugs to hitmen.

But in 2013 its founder, Ross Ulbricht (pseudonym Dread Pirate Roberts), was arrested, convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. He later claimed his motive with Silk Road was "about giving people the freedom to make their own choices".

Today, if you link to the original Silk Road, all you see is an image stating "the hidden site has been seized" and the FBI logo.

Interestingly, not every illicit marketplace is utterly without conscience. Silk Road, for example, said it would sell only "victimless" contraband, while other sites refused to sell weapons or poison. One marketplace, Evolution (which has also closed), refused to sell "child pornography, services related to murder, assassination, terrorism, prostitution, Ponzi schemes and lotteries", reports Wired magazine. Yet it did allow credit-card data to be sold.

All of which leaves SA’s law-enforcement authorities, who these days seem caught up in playing politics, quite jittery. The State Security Agency (SSA), like the Hawks, has been trying to keep an eye on the Dark Net. But, says spokesman Brian Dube, it’s tricky to trace shady transactions that use Bitcoins.

Quite how much money is involved is unclear. But one company that conducts research into the Dark Net, law firm Norton Rose Fulbright, estimates it could run into billions of dollars.

Dube says the SSA monitors channels used on the Dark Net to look for any mention of terrorist attacks planned against SA infrastructure. This isn’t so far-fetched, he says, as there are certain sites that offer services for terrorist organisations. Most simply spread propaganda and act as a communications hub — a kind of Facebook for terrorists. But terrorist cells are increasingly recruiting through the Dark Net.

Equally, the classified documents posted online — often obtained through hacks, theft, or disgruntled employees — are often impossible to remove.

"As soon as the information is made public this ‘confidential’ information is copied, saved and viewed by thousands of people, making the managing of this type of information leak impossible," says Dube.

This is perhaps one of the more benevolent uses of the Dark Net – a safe place for whistle-blowers to post documents without fearing recrimination from zealous politicians seeking to target them.

Prof Basie von Solms, director of the Centre for Cyber Security, says if you are a whistle-blower the Dark Net is the safest bet. "That is the place you will probably make it available or even put it up for sale and make a buck," says Von Solms.

One policewoman who spoke to us anonymously says the growth in the Dark Net in SA is a reaction to government’s desire to impose more controls on the Internet by policing it more vigorously. The more draconian these laws become, the bigger it will grow. "You limit freedom and people will always seek out places to live out those freedoms, whether criminal or not."

It’s a noble sentiment, suggesting a higher raison d’être for the Dark Net. But the most depraved fringes of this hidden Internet world make it more of a menace than a saviour right now.

What it means: The "free choice" notion is demolished by the fact that it is a refuge for some of the most wicked elements of society.

Source : http://www.financialmail.co.za/

Categorized in Deep Web

Ausking is arguably the largest dark web vendor Australia has at the moment.

The dark web vendor has dabbled in almost every type of illegal substance including marijuana, cocaine, and heroin.

He runs more than a few businesses extending over various dark net markets, including the AlphaBay market, where he boasts of a perfect 10/10 rating.

Being one of the elite dark web traders in Australia, his customers expect nothing but high-quality products and top-notch services, which is according to his delivery and feedback rating, he consistently delivers.

In addition to next day delivery, customers can also rest a bit easier since Ausking’s OPSEC is incapable of making mistakes.

Violence is Counterproductive to the Drug Trade

When asked what he attributes his success to, “hard work, honesty, integrity and quality” is what Ausking says.

Surprisingly, his dark web trade breaks out of the stereotype associated with drug vendors of any kind—that they’re violent, untrustworthy and quite often involved in some form of organized crime.

From the looks of things, however, Ausking runs a very clean operation and despite its legality, upholds it in the same standards as a thriving legal business enterprise.

Ausking’s preference of the dark web to conduct his trade was mostly influenced by his dislike for violence, which he reckons is a very counter-productive factor in any business.

Using the dark web, as Ausking explains, eliminates the violence factor almost completely.

Statistically speaking, his claim that violence is drastically reduced when using the dark web is, in fact, true.

The Drug Vendor Dislikes Killers for Hire and Pedophiles

In response to a moral question that seemingly bundled him in the same category as hit men and pedophiles, Ausking said that such people, although present on various dark web platforms, were a rarity on major dark net markets, which have strong censorship against such immoral acts.

Ausking went on to express his abhorrence for such activities and people.

Heroin Generates the Most Profits

Ausking’s selling everything from weed and coke, to meth and heroin.

Ausking’s selling everything from weed and coke, to meth and heroin.

On to the subject of his profits, Ausking was willing to disclose that currently, the product that racks him the tidiest profit is pure Afghan heroin.

He attributes his stellar profits to the fact that he is among the most reliable vendors on the dark web at the moment and the extent of his customer base which is currently spread across the world.

The size of the dark web vendor’s business at the moment is comparable to that of a fortune 500 company except for the illegal nature of the substances he deals with.

Moral Repercussions

Being a drug dealer always comes with its moral baggage, especially when one considers the users of the substance they peddle.

Heroin addiction is without a doubt one of the most prevalent drug problems in the world right now, which largely contributes to its high demand.

When confronted with the question about how he deals with small scale buyers of his product who are quite often users of the drug, Ausking responded saying that his was more than just a sell-and-move-on gig.

Ausking always follows up every small scale with warnings of the health risks associated with the drugs. He mentioned that he puts extra efforts into educating his users.

Apparently, the review system on most of the major dark web drug marketplaces contained comprehensive information concerning drug potencies and effects.

This is a step up from the street trade where you get what you see and there is often now way to determine the purity of the product, let alone learn its side effects.

Ausking Does Not Conform to Stereotypical Nuances

Ausking runs his business based on the philosophy that people should be allowed to choose their own form of recreational drugs since the legal ones such as alcohol and nicotine are just as harmful.

The legalization of such substances, according to Ausking, would mean the end of violent drug cartels and the introduction of legit companies which would inject more money into the war against drug dependency in order to enlighten more people on the dangers of drug addiction.

He also claimed that the stereotype that drug dealers are bad people was a product of narrow-minded people.

Drug vendors, especially on the dark net markets, could be literally anyone including law enforcement agents and to hold such prejudices is shallow.

When asked about the continuity of the dark net markets in the wake of the numerous laws governing against the dark web and technological advancements, Ausking is confident that dark net markets will always have its place in the dark web, especially when it comes to filling the niches the street trade cannot and the reduced risks involved in purchasing the product.

Author:  Dark Web

Source:  https://darkwebnews.com

Categorized in Deep Web

 "The visible web is the tip of the iceberg," says Anand Rajaraman, co-founder of Kosmix, a search engine for the Deep Web (DW).

One of Kosmix’ investors is none other than Jeff Bezos, CEO of Amazon. The iceberg sounds daunting, but Rajaraman seems to know what he's talking about. How is it possible that everything we know about the Internet is only a tiny portion of it?

The Deep Web is the invisible part of the Internet. To put it in simpler terms, it is the part of the web that cannot be indexed by search engines, a place where Google does not go: a "dark" web with limited access.

"The DW is made up of large amounts of information that has been posted online and that for technical reasons has not been catalogued or updated by search engines," says Alfonso A. Kejaya Muñoz, Security Researcher at McAfee Chile. Studies have shown that the Deep Web represents 90% of the Internet.

For those who started using the Internet in its early days, before search engines or web portals even existed, navigating the Deep Web is like a blast from the past. It is hard to find what you are looking for, you need more than a passing knowledge of computer science, and you will have to write down the exact addresses of the sites you manage to find, and stock them in your bookmarks, because it is not easy to remember pages with URLs like SdddEEDOHIIDdddgmomiunw.onion (the usual format in this territory).

"The Deep Web began in 1994 and was known as the 'Hidden Web.' It was renamed ‘Deep Web’ in 2001," says Kejaya Muñoz. "However, some people believe that the origin of the Deep Web goes back to the 1990s, with the creation of 'Onion Routing' by the United States Naval Research Laboratory, which was the first step toward the Tor Project.”

Tor (short for The Onion Router) is the main portal to the Deep Web. It encrypts the user's information, in layers like an onion's, and sends it to a wide network of volunteer servers all over the world. This technique makes it almost impossible to track users or their information.

Offering anonymity and freedom, the Deep Web has transformed over the years into a deep, almost inhospitable, little-explored information repository that can host anything from the most innocent content to the most ruthless and unthinkable. Within the Deep Web are private intranets protected with passwords, as well as documents in formats that cannot be indexed, encyclopedias, dictionaries, journals, etc. But that is not all.

A dark abyss

Satnam Narang, Manager of Symantec Security Response, says that because the Deep Web is hidden from view, it is an especially attractive place for shady activities. Many cybercriminals gather in places like private forums with restricted access.

Many users are already familiar with the Internet's dark side: how to download music illegally, where to see the latest movies for free, or how to order prescription drugs for a little extra money. But the Deep Web goes farther. Almost unimaginably farther.

Child pornography, arms trafficking, drugs, hired assassins, prostitutes, terrorism, etc., all make the Deep Web the largest black market ever to exist.

"On the Deep Web you can find sites that sell stolen credit cards, teams that will clone credit cards through ATMs, people selling cocaine, and more," says Dmitry Bestuzhev, director of Kaspersky Lab's team of analysts.

Of course, not all uses of the Deep Web sites are "evil." It has also been very helpful to citizens who find their personal liberties threatened, or who are being watched by government agencies. WikiLeaks is an example of one of the uses of the Deep Web. In the beginning, and for a long time, the WikiLeaks site operated in the Deep Web, before it went public. Even today, if someone wants to blow the whistle or upload information to WikiLeaks, it is possible to publish it on the Deep Web.

Another example is the group Anonymous, which has used Tor to organize massive attacks on all kinds of organizations. It uses the Deep Web not only for direct actions but also to organize itself.

Naturally, it did not take long before this kind of network attracted the attention of the security agencies of various governments. How could they let organizations operate freely, without being hindered by censorship?

One of the most obvious examples is Silk Road, a secret web for buying and selling all kinds of drugs. It is estimated that Silk Road makes more than $22 million a year, and police agencies worldwide are scrambling to come up with strategies to stop the online traffic.

Recently, the Australian Federal Police and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service started a joint operation to intercept transactions on Silk Road. Since September 5, detectives have intercepted over 30 packets containing approximately 0.5kg of cannabis, around 200g of synthetic cannabis, around 5g of methylamphetamine, 1g of cocaine, around 400 tabs of LSD and 30 ecstasy tablets, the agency told the Border Mail newspaper. In April, the U.S. DEA was also reported to have taken action against drug trafficking on the Deep Web.

The problem is that the transactions can be intercepted, but dismantling the network or tracking the users is almost impossible.

There have already been attempts to regulate the Deep Web and Tor. Recently the government of Ethiopia said it has installed security systems that block access to Tor in Ethiopia, to avoid illegal activity and Skype connections, which are regulated there. The effectiveness of that technology is not yet known.

Last year, amid the maelstrom of protests and publicity around the proposed SOPA bill (Stop Online Piracy Act), one section of the bill went largely unnoticed: It could make it illegal to distribute Tor and other software that can "circumvent" attempts by the U.S. government to block pirate Web site -- something that has Tor users quite worried. 

But government and police concern goes beyond trying to destroy or restrict these networks. According to Wired, the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has plans to use them for cyber espionage. “The deep web contains government reports, databases, and other sources of information of high value to the Department of Defense and the intelligence community,” said a 2010 Defense Science Board report. Alternative tools are needed to find and index data in the deep web … Stealing the classified secrets of a potential adversary is where the [intelligence] community is most comfortable.”

Source : http://worldcrunch.com

Auhtor : Pablo Albarraca­n and Christopher

Categorized in Deep Web

The next time you're on a boat, or a yacht or a cruise ship, take a few moments to look out at the water. Everything may seem calm on the surface, but there's a flurry of activity taking place just below and in the darkest depths.

Something similar is happening with the internet. No matter how many websites you visit, comments you post, photos you share, videos you watch and forums you join, you're barely scratching the surface of what's out there. In fact, even if you visited every single website you could find, you'd still only have access to about 3 to 4 percent of what's on the internet.

So, where is all of this content hiding? That's what we're going to talk about today: The Dark and Deep Web, where things are happening online that most of us don't see or have access to.

UNDERSTANDING THE INTERNET'S STRUCTURE

Before we dive into a discussion on the Dark Web, it's helpful to know how the internet is structured, and other key terms that often get confused or intermixed.

The graphic below shows one of the easiest ways to visualize the structure of the internet, by thinking of it as an iceberg.

Above the water is the Surface Web. Beneath the water is what's known as the Deep Web, and a part of this Deep Web is called the Dark Web. Keep reading for a breakdown of each of these terms' definitions to see how they're different from one another.

dark-web

  • Surface Web: This portion of the web, which is also known as the Visible Web, Indexed Web, Lightnet or Clearnet, is easily accessible for everyone. You do not need any special software to access it, and it houses all of the sites you frequently visit including Facebook, Netflix, Twitter, Tumblr, Amazon and others. Everything that takes place on the Surface Web is tracked and traceable.

  • Dark Web: It's likely that you've never seen this portion of the web before. The Dark Web is an encrypted network of "Darknets" that makes up a portion of the Deep Web. Accessing this hidden section of the web requires a special encryption software called Tor.

  • Deep Web: The Deep Web is often used as a synonym for the Dark Web, but they're actually two separate things that are not interchangeable. In its simplest terms, the Deep Web is basically online data that is not registered with any type of search engine (and therefore can't be found by a web search). This information is typically stored on the private networks of corporations.

The phrase "Dark Web" probably sends shivers up your spine, but really, it's just a label that has been assigned to this portion of the internet that lies just beyond what the average internet user sees. That's what makes it so easy to believe some common myths about what the Dark Web is, and what it does. Here are five of the biggest myths out there.

Myth #1 - Everything on the Dark Web is illegal

Like many things, there is nothing wrong with the Dark Web. In fact, there's nothing "Dark" about the true intent of the Dark Web at all.

Originally, this network was designed with privacy, security and anonymity in mind. You might notice that these are all things we frequently warn you about here on Komando.com: Browse anonymouslystop Google and Facebook from tracking your every moveuse secure passwords, etc.

The Dark Web itself isn't illegal. In fact, even legitimate sites such as Facebook have sites or operating versions on the Dark Web, and many people do use it for what it was originally intended. That is, to browse the web without being tracked by their internet service provider, web services or even the government.

However, we can't pretend that the Dark Web isn't home to some pretty horrific things.

A thread on Reddit titled, "What's the worst thing you've seen on Dark Web" is riddled with comments that describe unimaginable crimes and graphic content. Evidence of kidnappings, hitmen for hire, prostitution, child pornography, drugs, guns... you name it.

Myth #2 - The Dark Web is more massive than the Surface Web

This is why it's important to understand the correct terminology when talking about the Dark Web. While it's true that the Deep Web is estimated to be around 500 times larger than the Surface Web, the Dark Web is actually believed to be much smaller. Some might even call it a Dark Nook in comparison.

There are billions of websites available on the Surface Web; however, the Dark Web is estimated to have somewhere between 7,000 to 30,000 sites that are hidden from everyday access.

Myth #3 - It is difficult to access the Dark Web itself

Anyone who really wants to access the Dark Web can. However, to access it, you'll need a special software called Tor. This software isn't difficult to get and it's not expensive either. It's actually a free download and the site does accept donations.

In the About section on the Tor Project's website, the software is described as follows: "The Tor network is a group of volunteer-operated servers that allows people to improve their privacy and security on the Internet. Tor's users employ this network by connecting through a series of virtual tunnels rather than making a direct connection, thus allowing both organizations and individuals to share information over public networks without compromising their privacy."

There is nothing on the Tor Project's website that indicates any wrongdoing whatsoever. However, the site does outline the Tor Project's intentions for the future, stating: "We want software that meets users' needs. We also want to keep the network up and running in a way that handles as many users as possible."

Beyond easy access to the necessary software, there are also online tutorials that walk people through the process of entering the Dark Web should they choose to do so.

Myth #4 - The Dark Web is not policed and is impenetrable

To an extent, this is true. Due to the anonymity the Dark Web provides, it is more difficult for law enforcement officials to track down and stop illegal activities. But, the tools that make it possible for these criminals to connect on the Dark Web also make it possible for members of the FBI to create fake profiles.

On October 2, 2013, a man by the name of Ross Ulbricht was arrested by the FBI, believed to be the founder and administrator of a site on the Dark Web called Silk Road. The Silk Road was a retail site that sold many illegal items including drugs, stolen credit cards, fake IDs, banned products and more.

In March 2015, German police made a gigantic drug bust by tracking criminals through the Dark Web. They raided 38 locations and arrested seven key individuals involved in the sale of illegal drugs on the internet. In addition, they were able to confiscate 700 pounds of cocaine, ecstasy, LSD, hash, marijuana, amphetamines and methamphetamines, keeping it off the streets.

Later that year, here in the U.S., the FBI hacked thousands of computers that were tied to a child pornography site called Playpen. The site had nearly 250,000 members and the bust led to the arrests of more than 1,500 individuals. More arrests are still taking place in ties to Playpen, as law enforcement officials pinpoint the predators behind the members' usernames.

Tracking down criminals and revealing their true identity is no easy task, but it can be done and is a major focus of law enforcement agencies worldwide.

Myth #5 - The Dark Web is more dangerous than the Surface Web

Don't let the name Dark Web fool you into believing that this hidden online alcove contains every evil that exists on the internet. That's simply not the case, and it's a myth that can get you into trouble.

The truth is, the regular web - the one you use every day to search for your daily news, shop, check Facebook and watch viral cat videos - can be just as bad. Many cybercriminals and other ill-intentioned predators hide in plain sight. If you have any doubts about that, check out this article about three types of online creepers that are out there, and how to avoid them.

Almost everything you can find on the Dark Web can also be found on the regular internet. This includes drugs, solicitation, stolen data, terrorism groups and various types of pornographic material. This is why we're constantly warning you about the latest threats, and sharing tips on online behaviors that will get you in trouble. Click here for seven things you need to stop doing online immediately.

Understanding how the Dark Web works can be confusing, especially since it's not something the majority of us use or have ever seen. If you're feeling overwhelmed, listen to Kim's two-part podcast on the Dark Web where she breaks things down even more.

Source : http://www.komando.com/

Auhtor : Kelli Uhrich

Categorized in Deep Web

The encrypted internet known as the Dark Web is crawling with creepy criminals intent on swiping and selling data, drugs, and other illicit goods. Accessible only by using a secure browser like Tor, the Dark Web has become notorious for hosting felonious hacker forums and illegal markets like the Silk Road. Yet contrary to its infamous reputation, according to new research from security firm Terbium Labs the Dark Web is not exclusively a haven for reprehensible reprobates.

Terbium Labs Matchlight tool helps companies and organizations locate stolen data by monitoring and indexing Dark Web activity. Akin to a Google Search Alert, Matchlight pings corporate clients with alerts when missing data is found. To the layperson the Dark Web appears opaque, but "it's not as large or as shadowy as you might think," said Emily Wilson, Director of Analysis at Terbium Labs. With the right tools, she explained in an interview with TechRepublic, it's reasonably easy to track criminal and other activity on the encrypted web.

"Compared to the clearnet, the Dark Web is maybe a few thousand, or few hundred thousand [sites.]," Wilson said. The report found that although criminal activity is omnipresent, 54.5% of Dark Web content is legal traffic posted by tech companies like Facebook, the U.S. State Department and other government organizations, and journalists and activists.

Much of the Dark Web is literally dark, the report said. Nearly 17.7% of the encrypted internet consists of dead websites. 12.3% of illegal Dark Web activity is related to illegal drug trafficking, and another 3.2% is diverted pharmaceutical trafficking. Fraud and hacking each consist of only 1.3% of Dark Web activity. One percent of the Dark Web is exploitation related, and less than one percent of encrypted traffic is linked to extremism, the report said.

The Terbium document enumerated several additional key findings:

  • Anonymity does not mean criminality. A majority of Dark Web activity is legal.
  • Pornography is prominent, but not all of it is illegal. Almost 7% of the total content is extreme, but legal, pornography.
  • Fraud was much lower than anticipated. This is likely due to the prevalence of fraud material on sites that are technically part of the clear web.
  • Extremism in rare. No instances of weapons of mass destruction or human trafficking were observed.

terbiumlabsdarkwebcontent.png

Image: Terbium Labs

The Dark Web moves quickly and is not easy to monitor, the company said. In a statement accompanying the Terbium data Chief Data Scientist Clare Gollnick explained that "conducting research on the Dark Web is a difficult task because the boundaries between categories are unclear. We put significant effort into making sure this study was based on a representative, random sample of the Dark Web. She acknowledged that there are "limitations involved in both Dark Web data specifically and broader limitations of data generally."

Source : http://www.techrepublic.com

Author : Dan Patterson

Categorized in Deep Web

Fourteen years ago, a pasty Irish teenager with a flair for inventions arrived at Edinburgh University to study artificial intelligence and computer science. For his thesis project, Ian Clarke created "a Distributed, Decentralised Information Storage and Retrieval System", or, as a less precise person might put it, a revolutionary new way for people to use the internet without detection. By downloading Clarke's software, which he intended to distribute for free, anyone could chat online, or read or set up a website, or share files, with almost complete anonymity.

"It seemed so obvious that that was what the net was supposed to be about – freedom to communicate," Clarke says now. "But [back then] in the late 90s that simply wasn't the case. The internet could be monitored more quickly, more comprehensively, more cheaply than more old-fashioned communications systems like the mail." His pioneering software was intended to change that.

His tutors were not bowled over. "I would say the response was a bit lukewarm. They gave me a B. They thought the project was a bit wacky … they said, 'You didn't cite enough prior work.'"

Undaunted, in 2000 Clarke publicly released his software, now more appealingly called Freenet. Nine years on, he has lost count of how many people are using it: "At least 2m copies have been downloaded from the website, primarily in Europe and the US. The website is blocked in [authoritarian] countries like China so there, people tend to get Freenet from friends." Last year Clarke produced an improved version: it hides not only the identities of Freenet users but also, in any online environment, the fact that someone is using Freenet at all.

Installing the software takes barely a couple of minutes and requires minimal computer skills. You find the Freenet website, read a few terse instructions, and answer a few questions ("How much security do you need?" … "NORMAL: I live in a relatively free country" or "MAXIMUM: I intend to access information that could get me arrested, imprisoned, or worse"). Then you enter a previously hidden online world. In utilitarian type and bald capsule descriptions, an official Freenet index lists the hundreds of "freesites" available: "Iran News", "Horny Kate", "The Terrorist's Handbook: A practical guide to explosives and other things of interests to terrorists", "How To Spot A Pedophile [sic]", "Freenet Warez Portal: The source for pirate copies of books, games, movies, music, software, TV series and more", "Arson Around With Auntie: A how-to guide on arson attacks for animal rights activists". There is material written in Russian, Spanish, Dutch, Polish and Italian. There is English-language material from America and Thailand, from Argentina and Japan. There are disconcerting blogs ("Welcome to my first Freenet site. I'm not here because of kiddie porn … [but] I might post some images of naked women") and legally dubious political revelations. There is all the teeming life of the everyday internet, but rendered a little stranger and more intense. One of the Freenet bloggers sums up the difference: "If you're reading this now, then you're on the darkweb."

The modern internet is often thought of as a miracle of openness – its global reach, its outflanking of censors, its seemingly all-seeing search engines. "Many many users think that when they search on Google they're getting all the web pages," says Anand Rajaraman, co-founder of Kosmix, one of a new generation of post-Google search engine companies. But Rajaraman knows different. "I think it's a very small fraction of the deep web which search engines are bringing to the surface. I don't know, to be honest, what fraction. No one has a really good estimate of how big the deep web is. Five hundred times as big as the surface web is the only estimate I know."

Unfathomable and mysterious

"The darkweb"; "the deep web"; beneath "the surface web" – the metaphors alone make the internet feel suddenly more unfathomable and mysterious. Other terms circulate among those in the know: "darknet", "invisible web", "dark address space", "murky address space", "dirty address space". Not all these phrases mean the same thing. While a "darknet" is an online network such as Freenet that is concealed from non-users, with all the potential for transgressive behaviour that implies, much of "the deep web", spooky as it sounds, consists of unremarkable consumer and research data that is beyond the reach of search engines. "Dark address space" often refers to internet addresses that, for purely technical reasons, have simply stopped working.

And yet, in a sense, they are all part of the same picture: beyond the confines of most people's online lives, there is a vast other internet out there, used by millions but largely ignored by the media and properly understood by only a few computer scientists. How was it created? What exactly happens in it? And does it represent the future of life online or the past?

Michael K Bergman, an American academic and entrepreneur, is one of the foremost authorities on this other internet. In the late 90s he undertook research to try to gauge its scale. "I remember saying to my staff, 'It's probably two or three times bigger than the regular web,"' he remembers. "But the vastness of the deep web . . . completely took my breath away. We kept turning over rocks and discovering things."

In 2001 he published a paper on the deep web that is still regularly cited today. "The deep web is currently 400 to 550 times larger than the commonly defined world wide web," he wrote. "The deep web is the fastest growing category of new information on the internet … The value of deep web content is immeasurable … internet searches are searching only 0.03% … of the [total web] pages available."

In the eight years since, use of the internet has been utterly transformed in many ways, but improvements in search technology by Google, Kosmix and others have only begun to plumb the deep web. "A hidden web [search] engine that's going to have everything – that's not quite practical," says Professor Juliana Freire of the University of Utah, who is leading a deep web search project called Deep Peep. "It's not actually feasible to index the whole deep web. There's just too much data."

But sheer scale is not the only problem. "When we've crawled [searched] several sites, we've gotten blocked," says Freire. "You can actually come up with ways that make it impossible for anyone [searching] to grab all your data." Sometimes the motivation is commercial – "people have spent a lot of time and money building, say, a database of used cars for sale, and don't want you to be able to copy their site"; and sometimes privacy is sought for other reasons. "There's a well-known crime syndicate called the Russian Business Network (RBN)," says Craig Labovitz, chief scientist at Arbor Networks, a leading online security firm, "and they're always jumping around the internet, grabbing bits of [disused] address space, sending out millions of spam emails from there, and then quickly disconnecting."

The RBN also rents temporary websites to other criminals for online identity theft, child pornography and releasing computer viruses. The internet has been infamous for such activities for decades; what has been less understood until recently was how the increasingly complex geography of the internet has aided them. "In 2000 dark and murky address space was a bit of a novelty," says Labovitz. "This is now an entrenched part of the daily life of the internet." Defunct online companies; technical errors and failures; disputes between internet service providers; abandoned addresses once used by the US military in the earliest days of the internet – all these have left the online landscape scattered with derelict or forgotten properties, perfect for illicit exploitation, sometimes for only a few seconds before they are returned to disuse. How easy is it to take over a dark address? "I don't think my mother could do it," says Labovitz. "But it just takes a PC and a connection. The internet has been largely built on trust."

Open or closed?

In fact, the internet has always been driven as much by a desire for secrecy as a desire for transparency. The network was the joint creation of the US defence department and the American counterculture – the WELL, one of the first and most influential online communities, was a spinoff from hippy bible the Whole Earth Catalog – and both groups had reasons to build hidden or semi-hidden online environments as well as open ones. "Strong encryption [code-writing] developed in parallel with the internet," says Danny O'Brien, an activist with the Electronic Frontier Foundation, a long-established pressure group for online privacy.

There are still secretive parts of the internet where this unlikely alliance between hairy libertarians and the cloak-and-dagger military endures. The Onion Router, or Tor, is an American volunteer-run project that offers free software to those seeking anonymous online communication, like a more respectable version of Freenet. Tor's users, according to its website, include US secret service "field agents" and "law enforcement officers . . . Tor allows officials to surf questionable websites and services without leaving tell-tale tracks," but also "activists and whistleblowers", for example "environmental groups [who] are increasingly falling under surveillance in the US under laws meant to protect against terrorism". Tor, in short, is used both by the American state and by some of its fiercest opponents. On the hidden internet, political life can be as labyrinthine as in a novel by Thomas Pynchon.

The hollow legs of Sealand

The often furtive, anarchic quality of life online struck some observers decades ago. In 1975, only half a dozen years after the internet was created, the science-fiction author John Brunner wrote of "so many worms and counter-worms loose in the data-net" in his influential novel The Shockwave Rider. By the 80s "data havens", at first physical then online locations where sensitive computerised information could be concealed, were established in discreet jurisdictions such as Caribbean tax havens. In 2000 an American internet startup called HavenCo set up a much more provocative data haven, in a former second world war sea fort just outside British territorial waters off the Suffolk coast, which since the 60s had housed an eccentric independent "principality" called Sealand. HavenCo announced that it would store any data unless it concerned terrorism or child pornography, on servers built into the hollow legs of Sealand as they extended beneath the waves. A better metaphor for the hidden depths of the internet was hard to imagine.

In 2007 the highly successful Swedish filesharing website The Pirate Bay – the downloading of music and films for free being another booming darknet enterprise – announced its intention to buy Sealand. The plan has come to nothing so far, and last year it was reported that HavenCo had ceased operation, but in truth the need for physical data havens is probably diminishing. Services such as Tor and Freenet perform the same function electronically; and in a sense, even the "open" internet, as online privacy-seekers sometimes slightly contemptuously refer to it, has increasingly become a place for concealment: people posting and blogging under pseudonyms, people walling off their online lives from prying eyes on social networking websites.

"The more people do everything online, the more there's going to be bits of your life that you don't want to be part of your public online persona," says O'Brien. A spokesman for the Police Central e-crime Unit [PCeU] at the Metropolitan Police points out that many internet secrets hide in plain sight: "A lot of internet criminal activity is on online forums that are not hidden, you just have to know where to find them. Like paedophile websites: people who use them might go to an innocent-looking website with a picture of flowers, click on the 18th flower, arrive on another innocent-looking website, click something there, and so on." The paedophile ring convicted this autumn and currently awaiting sentence for offences involving Little Ted's nursery in Plymouth met on Facebook. Such secret criminal networks are not purely a product of the digital age: codes and slang and pathways known only to initiates were granting access to illicit worlds long before the internet.

To libertarians such as O'Brien and Clarke the hidden internet, however you define it, is constantly under threat from restrictive governments and corporations. Its freedoms, they say, must be defended absolutely. "Child pornography does exist on Freenet," says Clarke. "But it exists all over the web, in the post . . . At Freenet we could establish a virus to destroy any child pornography on Freenet – we could implement that technically. But then whoever has the key [to that filtering software] becomes a target. Suddenly we'd start getting served copyright notices; anything suspect on Freenet, we'd get pressure to shut it down. To modify Freenet would be the end of Freenet."

Always recorded

According to the police, for criminal users of services such as Freenet, the end is coming anyway. The PCeU spokesman says, "The anonymity things, there are ways to get round them, and we do get round them. When you use the internet, something's always recorded somewhere. It's a question of identifying who is holding that information." Don't the police find their investigations obstructed by the libertarian culture of so much life online? "No, people tend to be co-operative."

The internet, for all its anarchy, is becoming steadily more commercialised; as internet service providers, for example, become larger and more profit-driven, the spokesman suggests, it is increasingly in their interests to accept a degree of policing. "There has been an increasing centralisation," Ian Clarke acknowledges regretfully.

Meanwhile the search engine companies are restlessly looking for paths into the deep web and the other sections of the internet currently denied to them. "There's a deep implication for privacy," says Anand Rajaraman of Kosmix. "Tonnes and tonnes of stuff out there on the deep web has what I call security through obscurity. But security through obscurity is actually a false security. You [the average internet user] can't find something, but the bad guys can find it if they try hard enough."

As Kosmix and other search engines improve, he says, they will make the internet truly transparent: "You will be on the same level playing field as the bad guys." The internet as a sort of electronic panopticon, everything on it unforgivingly visible and retrievable – suddenly its current murky depths seem in some ways preferable.

Ten years ago Tim Berners-Lee, the British computer scientist credited with inventing the web, wrote: "I have a dream for the web in which computers become capable of analysing all the data on the web – the content, links, and transactions between people … A 'Semantic Web', which should make this possible, has yet to emerge, but when it does, the day-to-day mechanisms of trade, bureaucracy and our daily lives will be handled by machines talking to machines." Yet this "semantic web" remains the stuff of knotty computer science papers rather than a reality.

"It's really been the holy grail for 30 years," says Bergman. One obstacle, he continues, is that the internet continues to expand in unpredictable and messy surges. "The boundaries of what the web is have become much more blurred. Is Twitter part of the web or part of something else? Now the web, in a sense, is just everything. In 1998, the NEC laboratory at Princeton published a paper on the size of the internet. Who could get something like that published now? You can't talk about how big the internet is. Because what is the metric?"

Gold Rush

It seems likely that the internet will remain in its Gold Rush phase for some time yet. And in the crevices and corners of its slightly thrown-together structures, darknets and other private online environments will continue to flourish. They can be inspiring places to spend time in, full of dissidents and eccentrics and the internet's original freewheeling spirit. But a darknet is not always somewhere for the squeamish.

On Freenet, there is a currently a "freesite" which makes allegations against supposed paedophiles, complete with names, photographs, extensive details of their lives online, and partial home addresses. In much smaller type underneath runs the disclaimer: "The material contained in this freesite is hearsay . . . It is not admissable in court proceedings and would certainly not reach the burden of proof requirement of a criminal trial." For the time being, when I'm wandering around online, I may stick to Google.

Source :   www.theguardian.com

Author  :  Andy Beckett

Categorized in Deep Web

Synopsis

The so-called Islamic State (IS) is the most innovative terrorist group the world has seen. In the backdrop of its loss on the ground, IS is expanding its cyber capabilities to conduct more cyber-attacks and hacking. This and its migration into the ‘darknet’ will make IS more dangerous than before.

Commentary

TERRORIST AND non-state actors have used different modes and mediums to spread their message and communicate with their comrades. The dawn of the Internet has also provided such groups with unparalleled opportunities to establish communications and operational links that were not possible before. Starting from websites, terrorist groups moved to more interactive mediums like chatrooms and forums. It was social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter that truly revolutionised how militants, terrorists and non-state actors communicated with each other, recruited sympathisers and supporters and disseminated their propaganda.

The self-proclaimed Islamic State (IS) perfected the use of social media, which became the preferred source for the so-called ‘jihadists’ or ‘soldiers of the Caliphate’. In response, tech companies have been compelled to take down Facebook and Twitter accounts affiliated with IS. The unintended cost of this policy is that supporters, sympathisers and members of jihadist groups have moved into the deep web and the darknet.

What is Deep Web and Darknet?

The deep web and darknet are terms that are interchangeably used but they are two different things. The deep web includes all those web pages that a search engine such as Google cannot find. This includes web pages that are password-protected and includes all webmail, private Facebook accounts, user databases and pages behind paywalls. Websites that are not indexed by Google are also considered as part of the deep web. The surface web is all that Google has indexed and a user can access it using any search engine. It is said that the surface web is only the ‘tip of the iceberg’ and the deep web comprises more than 90% of the total Internet, which is almost 500 times of what Google can see.

The darknet is a part of the deep web but there is an important distinction. We access the deep web every day when retrieving our emails, checking bank statements online or logging into Facebook account. However, we cannot enter the dark net through a regular browser. The darknet is accessed using ‘dot onion’ software and not a ‘dot com’ one. As such, dot com browsers such as the Google Chrome and Firefox cannot access ‘onion’ websites. A different browser, the Tor browser, is used for this purpose.

Tor is an onion browser that sends the user through an unusual route to access a web page. For instance, if a user wishes to access a website using Tor, the browser will wrap the request through numerous layers, which will keep bouncing off different domains in different countries. The layers of the onion (hence the name) ensures anonymity and makes it almost impossible to trace the user’s footprints. This makes the Tor browser and dot onion web pages attractive for those wishing to maintain their privacy and secrecy.

IS in the Darknet

Indeed, anonymity does not mean that the darknet is a dangerous place. Individuals, especially journalists, use such avenues to hide themselves from prying eyes of authoritarian states and dictators. Similarly, Tor is used by those who wish to protect their privacy. However, illegal practices can and do happen because of the anonymity that is guaranteed by Tor and the darknet.

The darknet has provided criminals, non-state actors and terrorists tools and avenues that are absent in the surface net. For instance, a webpage by the name of ‘Silk Road’ functioned like the ‘Amazon.com’ for illegal activities, including the sale of drugs, weapons, fake passports and even hitmen. Criminals were comfortable dealing on this platform because of the anonymity in the darknet. The owner/founder of the Silk Road, Ross Ulbricht, was caught by FBI in 2013.

For IS and potential hackers, another attractive market in the dark net is that of hacking tools. IS and its United Cyber Caliphate has conducted several cyber-attacks in the last one year, usually in the form of defacing websites or hacking Twitter and Facebook accounts. The hacking tools and malware toolkits such as Keyloggers and Remote Access Trojans (RAT) are available in the darknet and it is highly probable that cyber terrorists and hackers download them from there.

Keylogger is a computer program that records every keystroke made by a computer user, while RAT is a malware program that enables administrative control over the target computer. As such, both are utilised to steal private and confidential information. Even IS has attempted to distribute such tools amongst its ‘cyber soldiers’. Additionally, IS hackers have also conducted cyberattacks such as the denial-of-service (DoS) attack, where a machine or service is made unavailable.

Islamic State is known for its innovations and ability to adapt to changing environments. When law enforcement agencies started snooping around social media, IS members, supporters and sympathisers migrated to mobile applications such as the WhatsApp and Telegram. The applications have become attractive modes of communication because of their end-to-end encryption, which prevents any ‘peeping’ by intelligence and law enforcement authorities.

Now a pro-IS deep web forum user has recommended that the group’s users migrate to Tor and stop using VPN services, hence ensuring greater anonymity. The distribution of hacking tools also signifies IS’ ambitions to expand its cyber capability. Considering the versatility of the group, this should not take too long.

Policy Implications

The 9/11 attack was the biggest terrorist attack which changed the complexion of global security. The American leadership and public never expected that an attack of this scale in a post-Cold War era could ever happen in the homeland. Yet, it did. Today, the attack that defined Bin Laden’s notorious legacy seems less possible because of all the security measures and precautions that have been taken by countries around the world.

The lack of imagination before was the serious shortfall of security analysts and counter-terrorism specialists who failed to predict or even anticipate 9/11. If IS wants to surpass 9/11, it will conduct a cyber-9/11. This is not an impossible task considering the lax cybersecurity measures. The recent hacks of the Democratic National Committee emails and leaks to Wikileaks signify the vulnerability of private information. The DoS attacks by hacking groups such as Anonymous further underline the capacity of non-state actors to inflict damage.

Indeed, IS does not possess the capacity and capability to attack infrastructure as was the case with Stuxnet. However, even stealing information, hacking and denial-of-service attacks have serious implications. Furthermore, the loss in Syria and Iraq and the narrow space available to the group make a ‘cyber caliphate’ with hacking capabilities the most viable option and dangerous force.

A terrorist organisation that is anonymous and possesses an army of hackers is already becoming a reality. The world is increasingly becoming more connected via the Internet with government and private infrastructure heavily dependent on cyber technology. This is why, with or without IS, the next wave of terrorism is most likely to be ‘cyber terrorism’. Rather than reacting to an attack in the future, the international community must pre-empt this threat now and take necessary steps.

Source : isnblog.ethz.ch

Categorized in Deep Web

Earlier this year, a security consultant from Telus Security Solutions, Milind Bhargava revealed that over 70,000 Canadian credit card numbers were listed for sale on a dark web market.

Bhargava released the findings as part of a presentation that was aimed at providing insight on just how much personal information from Canada was available on dark web markets.

He announced this at a SecTor conference held in Toronto.

Credit Cards Were All From One Province

Bhargava’s division, which is usually tasked with monitoring dark web sites that deal in the sale of credit cards for their corporate clients, said that like any other credit and debit cards, Canadian credit cards were easy to identify using the first six digits on the card.

These identify the type of card and also the bank it is affiliated with. As it stands, no organization has claimed credit card theft.

In his presentation, Bhargava said that more than 70,000 Canadian credit cards were suddenly put up for sale on the dark web following the data breach.

Despite the cards being from multiple banks, the security consultant noted that they all came from the same province.

Bhargava noted that it was rare to find such a large amount of stolen credit card information coming from such a localized area. He refused to disclose the identity of the province in question.

Data Breach was Some Form of Contest

70,000 credit cards for sale on the dark web shaken the belief that Canada is immune to cyber and malware attacks rarely make it to the public eye.

 

The stolen Canadian credit cards were on sale for as little as forty cents to as much as $3. The expiry dates on the cards ranged from this year to 2020.

According to Bhargava, there is no clear indication as to how or when exactly the data breach occurred.

The only assumption that could be derived from the situation was that the data collection may have happened for at least over a year.

He also speculated that due to the fact that the cards were sourced from all over Canada, it was possible that the credit card data collection was hosted by some sort of an organization as a contest.

Cyintelligence Inc. Emphasizes on Diligence in Protecting Organizational Data

The CEO of Cytelligence Inc., Daniel Tobok, was not impressed by the figures, saying that the discovery of 70,000 Canadian cards on the dark web market was not that astonishing.

The former managing director of the forensics and security consulting division at Telus, who is now the current head of the Toronto-based digital security consulting firm Cytelligence Inc., divulged in an interview that an upwards of 400,000 different credit and debit cards from Canadian banks are currently on the dark web.

He confirmed the speculation that Canadian cybercrime is largely underestimated, saying that Canada is just as targeted by cyber criminals and malware attacks as any other country.

What’s more, these dark web criminals seek more than just credit card information.

Human resource department databases are often raided for personal data such as social security numbers and T4 income tax information, among other sensitive information.

As Tobok divulged in the interview, his firm had recently been investigating year-long data breaches that resulted in the thefts of approximately 18,000 records containing credit card information and T4 income tax information from a Canadian organization, which he refused to name.

The organization’s security was breached using a carefully executed phishing scam which included email spoofing to install malware in order to breach the organization’s security.

The organization in question was negligent, in Tobok’s opinion, as they had last carried out a thorough security audit two and a half years ago.

Stolen Information Unverifiable

In Bhargava’s presentation alongside Telus consultant Peter Desfigies, he highlighted the fact that despite the alarming amount of Canadian data available for sale on the dark web, there was no way to verify the legitimacy of the stolen data on offer.

However, the availability of Canadian Interac accounts from almost all the major banks in Canada, which came with all the necessary information such as usernames, passwords, and PIN codes, and even security questions spoke volumes about the legitimacy of the stolen information.

Bhargava is, however, sure that little can deter criminals from piecing together bits of data even without the assurance of verification.

He himself had previously been a target of a crime under the pretense of a Canadian government official who tried to extort him in connection with an immigration violation.

The anonymous caller had every bit of Bhargava’s information down pat.

 Source:  darkwebnews.com

Categorized in Deep Web
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