What (and where) is the Dark Web?

It is likely you have heard the term "dark web" and have been intrigued by what itis. After all, the term on its own implies a sinister connotation. Is it a place where illegal activity abounds? Should it be avoided at all costs? In this post, we'll cover what the dark web is and what you might find if you decide to explore it.

Dark Web Defined

CSO Online defines the dark web as "a part of the internet that isn't indexed by search engines and requires the use of an anonymizing browser called Tor to be accessed." It is believed that more than half the content available on the dark web is illicit or potentially harmful in some way. The dark web operates in a way so that IP addresses remain anonymous. Criminals use the dark web for illegal activity because their actions in this realm cannot be traced and they remain virtually invisible.

Is it All Bad?

"Is everything on the dark web bad?" The short answer is no. While most of the items or services found on the dark web are illegal and many are downright heinous, there are some positive uses for it. Journalists have been known to use the dark web in order to protect the anonymity of their sources. Others with a strong belief in their right to privacy choose to use the dark web so that they can visit the online world confidentially and without being tracked.

What You'll Find on the Dark Web

People should use caution when navigating the dark web. It can be a sketchy place with little rhyme or reason and certainly no laws. People might find drugs, weapons, murders-for-hire, and other nefarious items as they explore the dark web. Additionally, the experience of using the dark web can prove to be inconvenient compared with the web browsing experience most of us are accustomed to. Using Tor, the anonymizing browser to navigate the dark web, has been described as "an experience that's like the dark web itself: unpredictable, unreliable, and maddeningly slow."

A study titled "Into the Web of Profit," identified 12 specific categories of items available on the dark web that present risk to companies. These include:

  • Infection or attacks, including malware, distributed denial of service (DDoS), and botnets
  • Access
  • Espionage
  • Support services such as tutorials
  • Credentials
  • Phishing
  • Refunds
  • Customer data
  • Operational data
  • Financial data
  • Intellectual property/trade secrets
  • Other emerging threats

The report states that each of these categories has the potential to devalue, disrupt, or defraud a business.

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