Tag Archives: Dark Net

Demystifying “The Dark Web”

We often hear reference to the “deep” or “dark” web. What exactly is the deep or dark web? Is it as illicit and scary as it is portrayed in the media?

This article will provide a brief overview and explanation of different parts of the web and will discuss why you just might want to go there.


The surface web or “Clearnet” is the part of the web that you are most familiar with. Information that passes through the surface web is not encrypted, and users’ movements can be tracked. The surface web is accessed by search engines like Google, Bing or Yahoo. These search engines rely on pages that contain links to find and identify content. Search engine companies were developed so that they can quickly index millions of web pages in a short time and to provide an easy way to find content on the web. However, because these search engines only search links, tons of content is being missed. For example, when a local newspaper publishes an article on its homepage, that article can likely be reached via a surface web search engine like Yahoo. However, days later when the article is no longer featured on the homepage, the article might be moved into the site’s archive format and, therefore, would not be reachable via the Yahoo search engine. The only way to reach the article would be through the search box on the local paper’s web page. At that time, the article has left the surface web and has entered the deep web. Let’s go there now…


The deep web is a subset of the Internet and is not indexed by the major search engines. Because the information is not indexed, you have to visit those web addresses directly and then search through their content. Deep web content can be found almost anytime you do a search directly in a website — for example, government databases and libraries contain huge amounts of deep web data. Why does the deep web exist? Simply because the Internet is too large for search engines to cover completely. Experts estimate that the deep web is 400 to 500 times the size of the surface web, accounting for more than 90% of the internet. Now let’s go deeper…


The dark web or “darknet” is a subset of the deep web. The dark web refers to any web page that has been concealed because it has no inbound links, and it cannot be found by users or search engines unless you know the exact address. The dark web is used when you want to control access to a site or need privacy, or often because you are doing something illegal. Virtual private networks (VPNs) are examples of dark web sites that are hidden from public access unless you know the web address and have the correct log-in credentials.

One of the most common ways to access the dark web is through the Tor network. The Tor network can only be accessed with a special web browser, called the Tor browser. Tor stands for “ The onion router” and is referred to as “Onionland.” This “onion routing” was developed in the mid-1990s by a mathematician and computer scientists at the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory with the purpose of protecting U.S. intelligence communications online. This routing encrypts web traffic in layers and bounces it through random computers around the world. Each “bounce” encrypts the data before passing the data on to its next hop in the network. This prevents even those who control one of those computers in the chain from matching the traffic’s origin with its destination. Each server only moves that data to another server, preserving the anonymity of the sender.

Because of the anonymity associated with the Tor network and dark web, this portion of the Internet is most widely known for its illicit activities, and that is why the dark web has such a bad reputation (you might recall the infamous dark web site, Silk Road, an online marketplace and drug bazaar on the dark web). It is true that on the dark web you can buy things such as guns, drugs, pharmaceuticals, child porn, credit cards, medical identities and copyrighted materials. You can hire hackers to steal competitors’ secrets, launch a DDOS (distributed denial of service) attack on a rival, or hack your ex-girlfriend’s Facebook account. However, the dark web accounts for only about .01% of the web.

Some would say that the dark web has a bad rap, as not everything on the dark web is quite so “dark,” nefarious or illegal. Some communities that reside on the dark web are simply pro-privacy or anti-establishment. They want to function anonymously, without oversight, judgment or censorship. There are many legitimate uses for the dark web. People operating within closed, totalitarian societies can use the dark web to communicate with the outside world. Individuals can use the dark web news sites to obtain uncensored new stories from around the world or to connect to sites blocked by their local Internet providers or surface search engines. Sites are used by human rights groups and journalists to share information that could otherwise be tracked. The dark net allows users to publish web sites without the fear that the location of the site will be revealed (think political dissidents). Individuals also use the dark web for socially sensitive communications, such as chat rooms and web forums for sensitive political or personal topics.


Don’t be afraid – dive deeper!

Download the Tor browser at www.torproject.org and access the deep/dark web information you have been missing. Everything you do in the browser goes through the Tor network and doesn’t need any setup or configuration from you. That said, because your data goes through several relays, it can be slow, so you might experience a more sluggish Internet than usual. However, preserving your privacy might be worth the wait. If you are sick of mobile apps that are tracking you and sharing your information with advertisers, storing your search history, or figuring out your interests to serve you targeted ads, give the Tor browser a try.

Stunning Patterns Found in the Dark Net

One of the most powerful technologies for spying on cyber criminals lurking in the Dark Net comes from a St. Louis-based startup, Norse Corp.

Founded in 2010 by its chief technology officer, Tommy Stiansen, Norse has assembled a global network, called IPViking, composed of sensors that appear on the Internet as vulnerable computing devices. These “honeypots” appear to be everything from routers and servers, to laptops and mobile devices, to Internet-connected web cams, office equipment and medical devices.

When an intruder tries to take control of a Norse honeypot, Norse grabs the attacker’s IP address and begins an intensive counterintelligence routine. The IP address is fed into web crawlers that scour Dark Net bulletin boards and chat rooms for snippets of discussions tied to that IP address.

Analysts correlate the findings, and then IPViking displays the results on a global map revealing the attacking organization’s name and Internet address, the target’s city and service being attacked and the most popular target countries and origin countries.

Stiansen grew up tinkering with computers on a Norwegian farm, which led him to a career designing air-traffic control and telecom-billing systems. After immigrating to the U.S. in 2004, Stiansen began thinking about a way to gain a real-time, bird’s-eye view of the inner recesses of the Dark Net. The result was IPViking, which now has millions of honeypots dispersed through 167 data centers in 47 countries.

Norse recently completed a major upgrade to IPViking, which has led to some stunning findings. Stiansen explains:

Tommy Stiansen - NorseCorp

3C: Can you tell us about your most recent milestone?

Stiansen: We have managed to do a tenfold (increase) to where we can now apply millions of rules in our appliance.

3C: So more rules allow you to do what?

Stiansen: It allows us to have a lot more threat data and apply a lot more intelligence to a customer’s traffic. We can start applying more dynamic data. Our end goal is to apply full counterintelligence onto traffic. Meaning when we see a traffic flow coming through our appliance we will be able to see the street address, the domain, the email address used to register this domain. We can see who a packet is going to, and the relationship between the sender and receiver, all kinds of counterintelligence behind actual traffic, not just for blocking but for visualization.

3C: That level of detail was not available earlier?

Stiansen: Nope. This is something we’ve pioneered. This is our platform that we built so we can enable this (detailed view) to actually happen.

3C: So what have you discovered?

Stiansen: We’re learning that traffic and attacks coming out of China isn’t really China. It’s actually other nations using China’s infrastructure to do the attacks. It’s not just one country, it’s the top 10 cyber countries out there using other countries’ infrastructure.

3C: So is China getting a bad rap?

Stiansen: Correct.

3C: Who’s responsible? Russia? The U.S.? North Korea?

Stiansen: Everyone.

3C: What else are you seeing?

Stiansen: We’re also seeing how hackers from certain communities are joining together more and more. The hacking world is becoming smaller and smaller. Iranian hackers are working with Turkish hackers. Pakistani and Indian hackers, they’re working together. Indonesia hackers and Iranian hackers are working together.

3C: Odd combinations.

Stiansen: It’s weird to see these mixes because there’s no affiliation, there’s no friendship between the countries on a state level. But the hacker groups are combining together. The borders between hackers have been lifted.

3C: What’s driving them to partner, is it money or ideology?

Stiansen: All of the above. That’s the thing, the people who have similar ideologies find each other on social media and start communicating with each other. And the people with the financial means and shared goals meet each other, that’s the evolution. And when they do that, they become really powerful.