The massive data breach involving Ashley Madison has introduced many people to a new concept – the Dark Web. Before I explain what the Dark Web is, let me give you some examples of the types of people that use it. Hackers use it. Pedophiles, arms merchants, counterfeiters, drug dealers and people involved in the sex slave trade use it. That’s not to say that everything on the Dark Web is bad, but it’s where most of the really bad stuff resides.
What most people know as the Web is only part of it. That’s what is known as the Surface Web. Behind that, there is the Dark Web, where people and organizations place data they are require anonymity and/or higher security that what is available on the Surface Web. By most accounts, the darker version is much larger than the more known part of the web, perhaps 500 times larger.
Mark Goodman, a cyber-safety expert who has worked with Interpol, the United Nations, the LAPD and the U.S. Government, describes the Dark Web as a hidden world, “where malicious actors unite in common purpose for ill.” A former detective with the Honolulu Police Department that I know has seen him at several conferences and says that he will blow you away with his knowledge of the Dark Web. His article in the April issue of Popular Science gives a great explanation of the Dark Web.
The problem with the Dark Web is that it makes it almost impossible for law enforcement agencies to track users down using their IP Address, a unique identifier that can be traced back to a specific computer. This is because it isn’t easily indexed by search engines like Yahoo or Google. In order to use the Dark Web, users need a special kind of web browser, such as Tor or Grams. These programs reroute the signals being sent to them by as many as 6,000 servers, hiding the original IP address where the user is located.