Understanding the Dark Web: Where Cybercrime Originates


Anyone who’s read a modern-day Russian spy thriller or watched a recent episode of Law & Order has heard about the “dark web.” According to pop culture, it’s where criminals lurk, share information, and find their next prey.

Really, that’s not far off.

Still, there’s more to the dark web than character spies and gruesome plots. And contrary to popular belief, the dark web is not Reddit or any site that you can casually visit on your phone or laptop anytime you want. It’s … deeper and darker than that.

Below, we’ll take a look at what the dark web really is. Why is this important? If you care at all about cybersecurity for yourself or your business (and you definitely should), you’ll want to know where cybersecurity threats really come from.

These threats affect companies, families, gamers, employees, governments, non-profits, and everyone in between. In nearly all cases, they come from the dark web. It’s a scary place but one worth knowing about.

What Is the Dark Web?

Think of the dark web as the Internet you can’t get to on a regular basis. In other words, you have to try pretty hard to get there and actually have a specific browser (usually one called Tor). You’re not going to arrive there by accident.

The reason it’s difficult to get to the dark web is that it’s encrypted. Regular search engines won’t find it and don’t even recognize it. You cannot “Google something” and come up with a few hits from the dark web.

Here, it might be useful to mention that many people get the deep web and the dark web confused. The deep web is actually less suspicious and criminal than the dark web. Basically, the deep web is everything online that isn’t indexed by search engines like Google, so that includes data available to subscribers only, private cloud information, and other stuff that’s not illegal, but isn’t accessible to just anyone.

The dark web is like a playground of sorts. Some call it the “Wild West” of the Internet. There are no rules, and not everything works very well there. With that said, a lot of tech gurus and rogue techies like it for this very reason. It’s not a place where tech giants like Google and Apple rule — as is the case with the regular Internet.

In some cases, the authorities may visit the dark web to investigate matters or target criminals. Just as in the real Wild West, however, it’s not easy. On the dark web, anything goes, and privacy reigns, making it difficult to track both people and activities.

How Did the Dark Web Get Started?

Believe it or not, the U.S. government started the dark web in the 1990s. It actually began as a way for “good spies” to exchange information and not be found out because it kept everyone’s privacy by scrambling IP addresses and encrypting everything in numerous layers.

What Types of Cybersecurity Threats Lurk on the Dark Web?

Everything you don’t want to know about goes on on the dark web. In addition to the proliferation of pornography, drug sales, and violence for hire, cybercriminals use the dark web as their personal hangout. Here are just a few of the activities going on on the dark web that could one day affect you:

  • Selling of financial data (credit card information)
  • Selling of usernames and passwords
  • Selling and renting of botnets (robot networks that make it easy to attack a system with malware)
  • Guides on how to carry out fraudulent activity
  • VIP doxing

How You Can Stay Protected

There are various ways you can protect yourself and/or your company from dark web cybercrime. Most importantly, you must take an interest in internet security. Start by purchasing a full-service security suite that includes firewalls and antivirus and antimalware programs. Always keep this software updated, and keep any other software you use updated as well.

Next, take a look at the personal data you use. Avoid storing passwords and login information online. Don’t save credit card information when prompted to do so, and update your social media settings for optimal privacy. Also, choose strong passwords. Use complicated strings of numbers, letters, and symbols. Store your passwords somewhere safe. Some people even choose to store them in a notebook as opposed to online or in a text document.

Finally, know what to look for. Malware often enters your system and network via phishing attempts. These are often suspicious emails that appear to be from someone you know but look notably odd. Don’t click on any email or message that raises red flags.

Protecting yourself from cybercrime does take time, energy, and money, but it’s worth it. The dark web is not a place you want your information to be. Unfortunately, that’s often what occurs when security measures are neglected.

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