You’ve probably heard about the Deep Web; it become more well-known circa 2013 when the FBI took down the Silk Road drug marketplace. This brought widespread attention to the level of underground activity that goes on in this place on the internet that’s not accessible to anyone using a standard browser.
In essence, the Deep Web refers to any Internet content that, for various reasons, can’t be or isn’t indexed by search engines like Google or Bing. This includes dynamic web pages, blocked sites, limited access networks, intranets, and more. It is estimated that only 4 per cent of the Web is visible and 96 per cent of the Web is invisible or Deep Web.
Here is a graphic from OpenText which puts things in perspective.
Here are some of the things you may not have previously associated with the Deep Web:
1.Cannabis, cannabis everywhere – light drugs are the most-exchanged goods, with cannabis being the most traded drug. This was followed by pharmaceutical products like Ritalin and Xanax, hard drugs, and even pirated games and online accounts.
2.Hitmen for hire – hitmen are available on the Deep Web with prices varying based on the preferred manner of death or injury and the target’s status.
3.Doxing information is widely available – which is a huge concern if you’re a public figure. Doxing is the act of researching and broadcasting an individual’s personally identifiable information such as date of birth, address, emails and phone numbers. One site—Cloudnine—lists possible dox information for public figures, political figures, and celebrities.
4.Child exploitation is rampant on the Deep Web – as a father of two girls, this is one of the most horrifying findings to me. It includes sites which host child pornography or snuff films that feature children.
5.The Deep Web is a match made in malware heaven – as it hosts command-and-control infrastructure for malware. The hidden nature of sites like TOR and 12P and other services makes it easy to host and hide malware controlling servers on the Deep Web. One such malware is CryptoLocker, a ransomware which encrypts victims’ personal documents before redirecting them to a site where they have to pay to regain access to their files.
6.Bitcoins – are the currency of the Deep Web, frequently used when purchasing illegal goods and services. To ensure it maintains its anonymity, Bitcoin-laundering services have surfaced to help increase the anonymity of moving money throughout the Bitcoin system. By “mixing” Bitcoins through a spidery network of micro transactions, users end up with the same amount of money but a harder-to-track transaction trail.
7.Unfortunately, it’s too huge for law enforcement to track – as everything is encrypted, determination of attribution is difficult, and constant fluctuations mean that law enforcement agencies face a tough job when it comes to regulating and monitoring the Deep Web.
While a majority of normal Internet users will not find use for the Deep Web, organisations need to understand the goings-on beneath the surface of the Deep Web so that they can protect their customers from the cybercriminal activities happening within it.
Organisations need to implement a means of early detection and countermeasures against these threats, as they will, sooner or later, find their way to victimise users.
The future of the Deep Web
There is an ongoing race between the criminals who inhibit the Deep Web and law enforcement agencies, with the criminals working on technological developments to improve the stealth of their activities and finding new ways to become even more anonymous and untraceable.
One thing that will definitely grow in the future is the “shadow marketplace” which was previously brought to light by the FBI sting on Silk Road. Transactions on the Deep Web guarantee high anonymity, with Bitcoin technology allowing both sellers and buyers of illegal assets to bypass any external regulatory financial authorities. In fact, Bitcoin technology will probably develop to more advanced levels, making the cryptocurrency even less traceable than it is today.
The anonymity offered by the Deep Web will continue to raise a lot of issues and be a point of interest for both law enforcers and Internet users who want to circumvent government surveillance and intervention. As such, IT security pros like you and I need to continue keeping tabs on the Deep Web as its role in the Internet grows.
- Dhanya Thakkar is the managing director for Trend Micro, Asia Pacific. www.TrendMicro.com.au