Shedding Light on the Dark Web
When most people think of the Internet, they often think of daily use sites like eBay, Google, Amazon, and Gmail. In tech terms, it is known as the surface web and it is generally safe and easy to navigate, but beyond the surface, there is what is called the Deep Web.
The Deep Web is simply the largely unindexed part of the internet. In fact, about 90% isn’t indexed. What that means is that it is not cataloged by standard search engines like Google or Yahoo; these are areas that prioritize anonymity or confidentiality to keep sensitive material safe. Usually, anything beyond a login page or a paywall lives in the Deep Web, this could be anything from your webmail, newspapers, banking, and yes, Facebook.
It is safe and we often access the Deep Web even if we don’t realize it. But if you were to explore further, you would find the Dark Web (a.k.a. Dark Net), and if you think the name conjures up a place full of nefarious characters looming in the shadows, well you’d be right.
The “Dark Web” is the invisible area of the internet that often gets overlooked or ignored by most people since it is harder to access than commonly visited websites and usually used for illicit activities.
To enter into the Dark Web, special software is needed, or you’ll need to be granted authentication through other sources. The required software is called Tor.
What Is Tor?
First, we must understand its origins. Tor is the acronym from the project’s original name, “The Onion Router,” and was developed to allow for anonymity in communication. Onion routing was created in the mid-90s by the United States Naval Laboratory originally to protect intelligence communications online. It was released as an open-source code in 2002, and today comprises thousands of global relay nodes.
What that does is mask a user’s true physical IP location. Tor is not meant to be used to erase tracks but to reduce websites tracing actions back to the user, hence the anonymity. These sites are designated as “special use” and use domains with the .onion designation. Such top-level domains (TLD) that utilize the suffix .onion are uniquely recognized on the Tor Network. Since .onion sites aren’t required to register with Domain Name Servers (DNS) they remain unindexed, meaning they remain anonymous, unlike .com and other registered sites.
The Tor software is free for anyone to download in both its original form and in a modified format. It is funded by several non-profit organizations, including the US State Department, the government of Sweden, and the National Science Foundation.
And yes, Tor, like anything else, can be used for illegal purposes when it gets into the wrong hands. That’s why cybersecurity is critical to keeping things like our identities and bank accounts out of the hands of those willing to exploit them.
The Dark Web is Born
It didn’t take long for criminals with an affinity for technology to carve out their niche on the internet once they had a way of making it difficult to track their location and identities. Using Tor, plenty of anonymous sites sprung up that trafficked in everything from narcotics, weapons, human trafficking, nuclear material, poison, counterfeit goods, and hitmen, to name a few.
There’s nothing sexy about what happens on the Dark Web. Movies always glamorize things and gloss over the realities. Hackers have hacked into government servers, personal photos, banking information, sensitive identity, and credit information - all held for ransom or sold off to the highest bidder. These actions are more than inconveniences and can have profound repercussions, like ruin lives, erase careers, tear apart families, and destroy businesses.
You might think that this kind of thing won’t happen to you, but recently hackers were in our own backyard. An Orlando resident was part of a global hack that compromised the social media accounts of some very high-profile people, among them former US president Barack Obama, SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, and Microsoft founder Bill Gates.
Be a Light in the Darkness of the Dark Web
It’s not all darkness and doom, though. What if you could get a well-paying job to outsmart cybercriminals? It’s not fantasy; it is actually one of the most in-demand and growing jobs in the tech field.
Cybersecurity has become a critical part of daily business operations because of the constant threat that criminal hackers pose to critical infrastructures and secure systems. At the University of Central Florida, our cybersecurity programs can provide everything from the fundamentals to the hands-on counterattack simulations that will help you become a qualified cybersecurity professional. Our Cyber Defense Certificate Program will catapult you into one of the most highly sought-after industries and give you the skills and ability to work anywhere in the world.
If you’re up to the challenge and think you’re ready to fight the good fight, then it’s time to talk to one of our advisors. Schedule your free consultation to talk about the University of Central Florida’s Cyber Defense Program. Our Introductory Courses cater to all skill levels, preparing individuals even with no experience in the field to take on the cybercriminals of the world. Get hands-on, simulation training, and prepare for the necessary certifications to succeed as a cybersecurity professional.