The Evolution of the Dark Web

In simple terms, experts define the dark web as a part of the World Wide Web that can only be accessed by using specially developed software, specific configurations and link to get access. The key feature of the dark web is that users and website owners cannot be traced and can remain anonymous. The dark web, since the new millennium, has given the impression of something harmful and illegal to the layman, and rightly so. This hidden part of the web is often known to be used to conduct different types of illegal activities. 

In the past decades, the anonymity feature provided by dark web has allowed cybercriminals to use the platform to engage in nefarious activities. It includes collaboration, planning, skill development, training and offering malware and ransomware attacks on a Software as a Service basis. Consequently, people with little IT skills are carrying out cyberattacks to hurt their targets. Although government agencies across the globe continue to crack down on illegal activities in the dark web, businesses too can be proactive and take appropriate and possible cybersecurity measures to protect themselves. 

This blog aims to inform you about the evolution of the dark web in the last five decades, how cybercrime has leveraged it, and the possible solutions to counter cyberattacks. Read on!

Dark Web Origins

The origins of the dark web go way back to the 1960s. As you might already know, Advanced Research Projects Agency Network (ARPANET) was an experimental computer network invented by the academic world. This paved the way for the innovation of the internet as we know it today. But in the 1960s, the U.S defence department started using ARPANET for military defence purposes and protection against enemies. However, they allowed researchers to carry out radical experiments. During this period, students at Stanford University used ARPANET to conduct a commercial transaction of marijuana with students at MIT. This led to the beginning of the dark web. 

Dark Web: Through the 1980s and 1990s

By the year 1983, the internet began to be used by people around the world. One big concern was the storage of data and online privacy. Many offered the dark web as the solution. But data havens, although not a permanent solution, was used as a solution and data was exported to other countries to avoid government scrutiny. 

In the 1990s, the internet was released to the public and the age of the internet began and became the one-stop destination for buying anything and everything. More and more illegal transactions and activities started.During these years, a private browsing network known as Tor rose to prominence, which would later become the cornerstone of the dark web. 

Rise of Tor in the 2000s

There was a growing belief among internet users that private access to the web is essential. In 2002, the Alpha version of Tor was thus released and later it was launched for public use with 12 volunteer nodes. In 2008, the Tor browser was launched where traffic is passed through many servers and each time it is encrypted to enable anonymity. It became an easy-to-use platform for users worldwide.

Initially, the dark web was well-known for its use by those who fought against oppressive regimes and to challenge censorship. But soon, the dark web became the hub of illegal trade activities, criminal transactions, spreading of illegal content, terrorism and even cyberattacks. A dark web marketplace known as the Silk route became popular for selling illegal drugs, which was later shut down by the FBI. Dark web markets are used for selling stolen private data, confidential trade information, illegal products, counterfeit items and more. 

Dark Web and Cybercrimes

An array of digital crimes and cyber threats have emerged from the shadows such as hacktivism, digital fraud, scams, identity theft, cyber stalking and cyberattacks on business infrastructures. Besides, some other dangers that may lurk behind include Phishing, Malware, Exit Scams, and Legal troubles. 

  • Phishing – Phishing techniques are used on dark web marketplaces. Cybercriminals fool internet users into sharing their account details and extracting money. It is always difficult to ascertain the true identity of the seller on the dark web. 
  • Exit Scams – These involve sellers who open up shops, take money from the buyer and never ship the product. Before such illegal shops could be found, they shut their operations and open shops with new names. In other words, cyber thieves get the money and exit the marketplace.
  • Malware and Ransomware – In the early days of the dark web, cybercriminals needed to learn the technicalities of executing cyber-attacks that include malware and ransomware. However, the latest technology and sophisticated tools have opened up new opportunities. Nowadays, cybercrime kits are sold in the marketplace and can be used by anyone and anywhere. Various digital products are infused with malware that can cause serious harm to computer systems. The attackers often confiscate all the files and demand a ransom for releasing them. 

Ukraine-Russia Conflict

As the Ukraine-Russia conflict escalated, the hackers on the dark web actively engaged in cyber warfare. Multiple DDoS attacks were carried out to take down various government offices in Ukraine. The war also saw the development of a whole cyber army in Ukraine to thwart cyber attacks. 

Possible Solutions against Cybercrimes and Dark Web

There are several ways private date and corporate data end up on the dark web. For instance, your data may leak into the dark web marketplace due to data breaches of some organizations.In addition, it can happen due to clicking harmful website links, social engineering, phishing, ransomware etc. Sometimes, unsecured Wi-Fi connections in public spaces can lead to the extraction of personal data. It is important to monitor if your contact number or email address is leaked. You can use tools and websites for confirmation. If your data is leaked on the dark web, you should be alert and proactive.

Although it is impossible to eliminate your data from the dark web, here are a few standard measures to strengthen your security. 

  • Malware Detection – The first thing you should do is to run a malware scan on all the device types you are using. It includes smartphones, tablets, laptops and desktops. In case you find any malware, quarantine and clean the devices as fast as possible. 
  • Password Management – Effective password management must be followed to prevent data leaks. Best practices such as using strong passwords, different passwords for different services, and avoiding birth dates and common passwords can help. You can also choose to use a password manager tool. 
  • Multi-factor Authentication – Multi-factor authentication is now available for different services like banking. If it isn’t available, you can use various ways such as an authentication app, push notifications, alerts, SMS or advanced methods like facial recognition and fingerprint. 
  • Social Engineering Tactics – Beware of social engineering tactics and campaigns used by cyber criminals to retrieve your personal information. Always be cautious while sharing personal information. 
  • App usage – Multiple apps ask for access to your location, photos, contact list, camera, microphone and other details. Most of them are harmless. However, always double-check if the application is trustworthy or not. 

Dark Web Monitoring Benefits for Businesses

Dark web monitoring tools are capable of finding leaked private data, passwords, credentials and other sensitive information. These advanced tools help businesses discover any leaked data in real time, thus preventing further damage. An authorized person from the organization can receive updates about the threat. 

Some other benefits for businesses include:

  • Threat Evaluation – Threat analysts can better understand the cyber threat that just occurred and the modern techniques used by using web monitoring tools. 
  • Better Incident Response – It also helps in better and faster incident response and mitigation.
  • Threat Intelligence – If your business is using threat intelligence systems, the insights gained can be added to it.

All these insights can further help in preventing businesses from financial losses. Faster detection also helps to prevent damage to brand reputation. In addition, new and robust plans can be made to combat further such attacks.  Businesses can further strengthen their security against cyber crimes and dark web challenges by partnering with experienced and expert security service providers.