Everyday millions of internet users blissfully surf their Facebook pages, post updates on Twitter or search for recipes online. Many use search engines such as Google or Yahoo to navigate their way around the millions of websites on offer – but there is a darker side.
It is called the Deep Web (also known as Deepnet, Invisible Web, Undernet or Dark Net). It is a collection of webpages that are not indexed by search engines, or content that is not part of the Surface Web.
Part of this underbelly of the internet is a network called The Onion Router (Tor). Users download free software to browse Tor, which enables complete anonymity online and censorship resistance.
Asked how fast the criminal element within the Tor network is growing, Sergey Lozhkin, Senior Security Researcher at Kaspersky Lab explained to IT News Africa that it’s moving at an incredible pace.
“It’s moving really fast. Cyber criminals can exchange information on the Dark Net without being tracked. They will also have access to online banking passwords, credit card information and the like, and it’s very hard to identify them.”
As is the nature of the Dark net, it is next to impossible to identify culprits. “It’s hard to shut it down, and it’s impossible to identify criminals. They know that by using the Dark Net, they are protected from the police – and that makes the community bigger and stronger. It’s almost like a pirate community from the 17th century.”
While it all sounds ominous, Lozhkin is of the opinion that there is a legitimate side to Tor and the Dark Net.
“There are can be a legitimate side to the Dark Net. The Dark Net itself isn’t bad, it’s just the way people use it. There are really a lot of legal sites on there. Since Tor is not monitored by police, information can get out and governments can’t track the info coming out. The Dark Net is good for such countries were people want to talk about issues that have been banned by governments.”
Lozhkin and his team have been monitoring the Tor network, and discovered that an average of 900 online resources are active on Tor daily.
“We looked into resources, monitored forums, what people were doing online, and tracked down the most popular sites,” he explains.
Lozhkin needs the information to improve Kaspersky Lab products, and to develop malware solutions to fend off any possible attacks.
“We are doing research into resources on malware and looking into how they operate. We started researching malware to see what is out there, so that we can better our antivirus protection. New malware developers try to improve their wares, but we can try to stop them through research.”
Charlie Fripp – Consumer Tech editor