The murkiest denziens of the dark net - and how to escape their grasp
2 AUGUST 2016 • 3:23PM
in drugs and stolen data on the Dark Net is growing CREDIT: -/-
Earlier this week it was revealed that the 18-year-old man who murdered nine and injured 35 in Munich did so . The dark net, technically called ‘Tor Hidden Services’, is a network of hidden sites which are difficult to censor and accessed with an anonymous web browser. Whistleblowers and political activists rely on its privacy enhancing features, : the most popular and common use of the dark net are its two dozen or so anonymous markets, which look and feel like Amazon, and where more or less anything can be bought and sold, including a Glock 9mm.
For all the understandable worry about the weapons trade (Angela Merkel herself has promised ), there are not that many known cases of firearms being traded there: this may have been the first time a murder weapon was acquired this way. True, there are plenty for sale, but it’s difficult for a journalist to know if it’s legitimate or a scam designed to make off with some gullible buyer’s bitcoin. (I was once asked by a foreign television show to buy an AK-47 live on air, which I politely declined).
A Glock 9mm for sale on a Dark Net market - is it a scam or a genuine offer? CREDIT:ALPHABAY
By contrast, – according to the 10 per cent of drug takers have got drugs from there – because they are easy to mail in the post, possession won’t always land you in jail, and there are hundreds of vendors selling all sorts of exotic drugs, which makes for a very competitive, consumer-centric market place.
Guns are more difficult to mail, more expensive, and illegal possession a more serious crime. It’s a far smaller trade, which means the competition and choice which characterises the drugs market doesn’t exist. That in turn makes scams (or law enforcement sting operations) more likely. The dark net sale of weapons will likely continue to grow, but remain small – at least relative to the offline trade.
You have been warned - the trade in stolen data is going to get worse before it gets better
The same cannot be said of the escalating online trade in stolen data. The BBC's Victoria Derbyshire show that O2 customer data was being sold on a dark net market. An ethical hacker - someone who hacks into systems and then suggests how to fix the weakness - from company Insinia Security spotted a vendor claiming to have access to thousands of users O2 accounts. Yours for just $4.50 per user (which is pretty expensive in fact - but the vendor was offering a "buy 5 and get 2 free" deal).
7 hacked O2 accounts for the price of 5 CREDIT: -/-
It wasn’t actually O2’s fault. It looks like those user names and passwords were stolen from the gaming website XSplit three years ago. Because we’re all pretty lazy, hackers tried them on different websites, including O2. When they matched, hackers then accessed that user’s O2 account and pulled out dates of birth, phone numbers and so on. This game of snap is known as ‘credential stuffing’.
You have been warned - the trade in stolen data is going to get worse before it gets better. It’s a highly professional industry. In the last few months alone the following have been reported:
All of us leave personal data scattered all over the web, and in the right hands it’s worth something. (There’s a handy site to check if you’ve been hacked without knowing,). Take that stolen 02 data. A less ethical hacker could try to “credential stuff” from Amazon, or Gumtree, lock a user out of their account, and start making deliveries to a new address. One victim of the XSplit hack found cars for sale on his eBay account. More sophisticated uses include identity theft, and credit card fraud.
I was away from home when eBay contacted me to say there was some suspicious activity... I checked and it looked like there were cars for sale on my account. I am considering using a password manager and two-step authentication, although nothing is foolproofHasnain Shaw, hacked O2 account holder
This stuff is sold in staggering volumes; and there are secondary and tertiary markets where stolen data is repackaged and resold like dodgy mortgage bonds. It doesn’t even need to be put in a parcel. The O2 data, for example, is just delivered via email.
As I’ve argued elsewhere, these dark markets are efficient, creative, and professionally run. When they’re shut down, as sometimes happens, they tend to pop up again, even more secure.
New services and scams show up all the time, and will continue to. One of the fastest growing trades on dark net sites – insiders reckon it’s worth millions of dollars a year – is . A user’s computer is infected with malware which encrypts the entire hard drive.
Ransomware - a new invasive service on offer from the Dark Web CREDIT: -/-
That user is then asked to pay a ransom fee to get it unlocked again. It’s awful stuff, but a very creative way to make money.
A decade ago, you needed some technical know-how to make money from being a criminal computer hacker. The barriers to entry are lowering. You can just hire someone to do it for you, or download software, or buy stolen data and start credential stuffing.
The bad guys, through the use of the Internet, have shrunk the worldFBI director James Comey
Estimates of the cost of cybercrime to UK firms and individuals vary wildly, although it’s certainly billions of pound a year. Most of that’s not on the dark net of course, but I reckon a growing proportion of it is. Ironically, the answer might be there too. You know what dark net data vendors definitely do not do? Re-use the same password for every account and click links they don’t trust.
What’s more, last week , using the privacy and security this network offers to host your “smart home” services – your fridge, toaster, heater – which are increasingly becoming internet enabled and spewing out more data about you. The point? To stop hackers being able to access your personal data.
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