You might have heard about the dark and deep web in different conversations and often tend to use them in humorous ways, in different jokes and memes.
However, the dark web is no laughing matter. This hidden group of different sites that are only accessible through specialized web browsers can wreak havoc in terms of cyber security. The dark web enables users to keep their online activity private, enabling them to use this online presence both for illegal and legal applications. Needless to say, such platforms can jeopardize the safety of organization’s and enterprise’s online presence as well.
Some people use it to combat things like government censorship, while others use it for illegal activities, making having a dark web intelligence program a necessary feature for any serious organization or business.
In this article, we’ll discuss some of the main characteristics of the dark web, the different parts of the internet, and the potential threats that may originate from the dark web.
Know the Internet
There are more layers to the internet than most of us who browse every day see. Most of us only see the most obvious layer, or the open web (also known as “surface web”). These are the sites that can be accessed through traditional browsers like Bing, Yahoo, Google, etc.
However, there’s much more to the internet than meets the eye.
- Open Web: As mentioned above, this is the visible part of the internet, the tip of the iceberg, making up only 5% of the internet. This contains indexed websites thanks to visible links. Also, this is where most business websites are, with their security protocols in check.
- Deep Web: This layer makes up at least 90% of the internet and websites. This part of the iceberg that’s under the water and consists of large databases containing private and public databases, academic journals, and other data that’s harder for search engines to index. Also, the deep web contains intranet’s large internal networks, where larger entities, like enterprises and governments, have their internal communications. Lastly, in-review blog posts, page redesigns, banking information, financial accounts, social messaging, legal files are all part of the deep web.
- Dark Web: These are a collection of sites that are only indexed by specialized browsers. It’s considered a part of the deep web that only a few users get to see. The dark web is often linked to illegal content, criminal activity, and illegal trading, even though legal parties can use the framework too.
What Happens if You Go on the Dark Web?
Accessing the dark web can be a rather straightforward process, and literally, anyone can reach it with a few simple steps.
As a matter of fact, by downloading the Tor browser (which was initially created to hide online communications), you can easily access the dark web. Now, it is basically purposed as any other web browser but works differently. It does not take the shortest direct online route between your desktop and the web. Instead, it uses different encrypted server paths each time to connect to the deep web without any tracking browser history at all.
Is the Dark Web Safe?
For the most part, browsing the dark web can be safe. However, only when you want to consume legitimate content.
In reality, there are a lot of safety issues with the dark web, with the following being the most prominent:
- It has a criminal element to it: You may stumble upon a few web platforms that are owned by criminals. Apart from selling illicit goods and offering illegal services, they may also try to exploit your information and steal it from you.
- You are running the risk of breaking the law: If you aren’t careful, you might get prosecuted for your activity on the dark web.
- You might bump into law enforcement: They also frequently operate on this part of the internet to locate and catch criminals. If you have an issue with online crime then have a look at services like https://www.newjerseycriminallawattorney.com/white-collar-crime/internet-crime/, as they can very likely help.
- Suspicious links: When on the dark web, you might click on links that will deploy malware on your device, or it might take you to sites with disturbing content.
- It can pose a serious threat to your business: As it is, the dark web can pose several threats to any system with a cyber security protocol. However, when somebody wthin your system somehow manages to enter the dark web through a company account, that user might jeopardize the entire system.
Ultimately, browsing the dark web is not illegal, but it isn’t necessarily safe either. As a whole, it can be considered legal. Still, there’s a myriad of unsavory activities that can expose users to unnecessary problems and risks, especially if they lack the necessary experience to assess these potential risks.
Is the Dark Web Illegal?
From what we’ve discussed so far, you can see that accessing the dark web isn’t illegal, but it’s not the safest option for browsing.
There are obvious benefits to using this portion of the web, like visiting untraceable sites and remaining anonymous online. In some cases, the dark web can help threat hunters locate hackers and might also help law enforcement to seize criminal activity.
Regarding the browser, using Tor is also legal. As a matter of fact, the privacy features offered by the browser can help evade corporate and government online monitoring.
However, when using TOR, your chances of performing illegal actions online are higher. With Tor, you might get tempted to use copyrighted content, share illegal content, or engage in cyber criminalism.
Dark Web Threats – Why Shouldn’t You Visit the Dark Web
If privacy is your main aim with using the dark web, you should know that it can still be risky to be in these spaces. Generally speaking, experts highlight three different risk factors and potential threats:
Malware strives on the dark web, often offered directly on portals as tools for hackers. Apart from that, these pieces of software also linger across these spaces, infecting the less tech-savvy users. As a matter of fact, the dark web has fewer security features than the open web, which exposes users to different malware types:
- Botnet malware
- Phishing malware
While you don’t necessarily need to use a fully-fledged dark web intelligence program as a private user to combat these threats, a good endpoint security program and a bit of education regarding malware can go a long way to ensure safe browsing.
The right security features and education are even more important for corporate users. As a matter of fact, many threat hunters use the dark web to learn about hacker strategies and intent. Knowing where to go on the dark web and what to look for is essential both in terms of having a proactive threat hunting protocol and in terms of overall browsing safety.
Becoming a government target
As many Tor-based platforms have been brought down by authorities, dark web users are always running the risk of becoming potential targets simply by visiting some websites in these spaces.
Because of the nature of the dark web, you can run into several scams, from phishing activity to false service advertising.
On the other hand, users can get into trouble for visiting and paying for illegal services, like weapon and sex trafficking, and even paid assassinations.
All in all, the dark web can be a safe(r) place if you are experienced enough to identify potential problems down the road. The dark web has its own benefits for those who know how to navigate through these sketchy spaces (like threat hunters and law enforcement, who are looking to uncover hacker and criminal activities). Other than that, the risks may outweigh the potential benefits that come from using these encrypted online spaces.