The internet has become an integral part of our daily lives, but even though it created a lot of good things for our society, the World Wide Web has also brought danger, which is hidden on the Darknet. The dark side of the web is becoming a major market for criminal activity, because content and pages on the Darknet can’t be easily accessed, unlike the regular web. On the dark web, users rely on special browsers, such as Tor, to access specific pages. Another reason why the Darknet is becoming so attractive to criminals is that these browsers allow them to hide their true identity. And the one thing cyber criminals and scammers love the most is anonymity.
Thanks to the Darknet, they can conduct all types of illegal activities. The sales of weapons, illegal drugs, fake documents, and child pornography are just some of the dangers lurking on the dark web.
Hackers are relying on the Darknet to sell stolen information
Darknet websites are an ideal environment for hackers who want to sell stolen data. For instance, in early 2019, around 617 million online account details, which were stolen from 16 hacked websites, became available for sale on the Darknet. Data that includes account names, email addresses, passwords, and locations, was stolen mostly throughout 2018. The seller, who’s reportedly located outside of the US, is selling these databases for around $20,000 in Bitcoin.
The stolen data could be particularly useful to scammers. They can use information such as usernames and passwords stolen from one site to log into accounts on other websites that users have accessed using the same credentials. However, passwords are one-way encrypted, which means that scammers who buy such information will need to crack passwords to use them for their scams. The data being sold on the Darknet was stolen from websites such as Dubsmash, MyFitnessPal, and MyHeritage.
The science behind ‘typosquatting’
Another trend that’s becoming increasingly popular on the Darknet is typosquatting. This scamming method involves making subtle changes to a web address, so it looks like an authentic site. For instance, hackers can use ‘rn’ in a web address instead of an ‘m’. Without even realising it, users can click on a fake domain, which will bring the visitor to a close replica of the original website. Since transactions made on the Darknet are often conducted using cryptocurrency, payments made on these fake websites go directly to hackers.
The fintech news site Crowdfund Insider reports that a hacker siphoned $760,000 from Darknet websites using this technique. There are several ways scammers can make money from typosquatting. They can harness credentials, which they can later sell, or conclude purchases without having real products to sell and deliver. Besides consumers, typosquatting can also negatively affect brands’ business operations, because lack of consumer trust could eventually lead to lower revenue.
Healthcare data is a hot commodity on the dark web
For the majority of hackers and scammers on the Darknet, healthcare data is among the most valuable commodities. Such information can allow fraudsters to pose as doctors online. Once they steal a doctor’s identity, scammers are able to submit claims to health insurance providers. What’s more, they can use the Darknet to sell stolen information such as prescription labels and health insurance credentials.
According to research conducted by the University of Kent and King’s College London, sales of prescription drugs on the Darknet are rapidly increasing in the UK. This refers to drugs such as Xanax and Diazepam, which are used to treat psychiatric conditions. “Governments must recognise this and look to create policies that react to these trends,” says Dr Jack Cunliffe from the University of Kent.
The future of the Darknet
Hackers are taking advantage of the widespread use of the internet to steal valuable data, conduct illegal purchases, and communicate with their clients. Since the Darknet ensures anonymity, scammers are becoming more comfortable with using it to facilitate their criminal activities. As the tech continues to advance, and cyber-attacks become more sophisticated, criminal activity on the Darknet will undoubtedly increase, and this danger shouldn’t be ignored.