If you’re like most people, even if you’re tech-savvy, you spend most of your time on the visible Internet. You use your browser or apps to connect to various sites and services for work, school, or fun. Many people would be surprised to learn that the Internet they access is just the tip of the iceberg and that a staggering 90% of all websites are hidden from them and search engines. This is the deep web, and there are plenty of legitimate reasons why a website might not be listed for search engines to find, including protecting sensitive data from hackers. However, a particularly nefarious part of the deep web is the dark web, where criminal activity runs rampant.
Fortunately, most people won’t stumble across the dark web by accident. Accessing the Dark Web requires specific software, including the Tor browser, that helps disguise activity through the use of encryption. These tools can hide the fact that you’re logging in from New Jersey. Some people even use Tor when browsing the visible web to protect their privacy, and the dark web has also been called the “anonymized deep web.” Of course, no software can absolutely keep you anonymous, and law enforcement entities have already cracked Tor in the past.
Even if Tor could guarantee anonymity, it isn’t just your anonymity that it would ensure. Everyone else on the dark web would be just as anonymous, which means that it would be impossible to trace the source of a crime if you become a victim. It’s already difficult enough for the authorities to track, prove, and penalize people who commit crimes online. The dark web makes it that much easier for bad actors to get away with those activities, which is why people discuss and engage in the drug trade, child porn, human trafficking, data leaks, and terrorism, just to name a few activities, on the dark web.
You might have heard of the Silk Road, a now-defunct marketplace for illegal goods and services that were once hosted on the dark web. While the Silk Road may no longer exist, plenty of other marketplaces have risen to fill its place. According to one Wired report, 80% of sites on the dark web are connected to child porn, which gives you an idea of the environment. You wouldn’t believe how easily—and cheaply—you can acquire credit card or bank account information on the dark web! In fact, some hackers sell kits on the dark web that enable others to spread malware and steal information with ease.
There are uses of the dark web that may be illegal but less harmful such as getting around geographic restrictions to watch videos online or access information that may be barred for their local government. Some people may rely on the dark web to download hard-to-find or even copyrighted files, and whistleblowers have been known to release information on the dark web to avoid retaliation. Even if you use the dark web for privacy reasons, the risk you face as a potential victim to these types increases. Furthermore, unsuspecting users may become accomplices to cunning criminals without realizing it on the dark web.
The dark web also presents technological risks, much like the regular web. Viruses, ransomware, and other malware can download itself to your computer, resulting in destroyed or stolen data and even rendering your computer unusable. You can imagine the lost productivity, money, and clients that this could result in, not to mention the damage to your reputation. Users of the dark web can also become targets of government surveillance.
How can users protect themselves? Common security tips such as updating hardware and software, connecting from secure networks, and updating passwords are all smart on the dark web just as they are on the visible web. Use firewalls and antivirus software at all times and VPNs when necessary. You should take extra steps if you use the Tor browser, including shutting down your computer and performing a malware scan before switching the visible web. Pay attention to your computer after you’ve accessed the dark web to determine if any functions have changed. However, it’s best to avoid the dark web and the risks it poses.
Furthermore, IT teams may want to consider dark web monitoring services that will notify them if any users have accessed the dark web. These tools may include other scans and logging tools to increase cybersecurity overall. If you own a company in New Jersey, a managed IT company can help you set up such monitoring and protect both your users and data.
If you need help with cybersecurity or IT in New Jersey, contact Techsperts LLC for more information!