The Dark Web: Defined, Discovered, Exploited

The Dark Web: Defined, Discovered, Exploited

Stephen Mancini (National Cyber-Forensics & Training Alliance, USA) and Lawrence A. Tomei (Robert Morris University, USA)
Copyright: © 2019 |Pages: 12
DOI: 10.4018/IJCRE.2019010101


The Dark Web is its own clandestine network of thousands of websites that most of us do not even know exist, much less how to access. The Dark Web uses its own tools to keep users anonymous and their activities hidden. The Dark Web is so well concealed that the full extent of its use remains largely the topic of hushed conversations. From black market drug sales to child pornography, the Dark Web operates at two extremes of the Internet, from venues for anonymous whistleblowing on one end to unguarded censorship on the other. This article provides a primer for those interested in learning more about the “known unknowns” of the Dark Web. Readers will find an excellent opening manuscript for the newly launched International Journal of Cyber Research and Education as it sets the stage for future research in cyber security and law enforcement. The paper will examine three foundational questions for the reader: What constitutes the ‘deep/dark/underground' web and keeps it obscure and remote from the community of legitimate users? How can websites that occupy the same virtual space range exist in two parallel dimensions from discoverable to undiscoverable? And finally, how do the actors on the Dark Web mature from novice to advanced? Is it the same process followed by users of the known web? In the corpus of this article, the authors will briefly examine how online markets exist simultaneously on the Internet, serving clients in both known online environments as well as the more secretive, anonymous online world. They will examine how nefarious actors migrate from the “good” web to become novice and then advanced users of the “evil” environments. To the neophyte user, the process introduced herein may appear relatively straightforward. In truth, the notion that any but the most staunchly dedicated practitioner can become a vetted participant in the ‘dark web' is inconceivable. Even so, with the sheer volume of actors operating in numerous underground forums and marketplaces, the impact remains significant and growing geometrically. Government and industry from all over the globe are hindered in their ability to track and identify the truly advanced actors operating in these more secretive environments. We shall soon see why this is the case.
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Defined – What Is The Dark Web?

In its early days, the Internet was little more than a promising set of interconnected university and government sites, accessed through command line instructions on machines over something called ARPANET. ARPANET, a research project funded by the Advanced Research Projects Agency, was the predecessor of the Internet with “…the goal… to exploit new computer technologies to meet the needs of military command and control against nuclear threats, achieve survivable control of US nuclear forces, and improve military tactical and management decision making.”1 It was not until the early 1980s, with the introduction of the TCP/IP standard that the roots of the modern-day Internet began. In roughly 25 years, the Internet went from its first Graphical User Interface (GUI) based browser with a few colors and some midi music tapping a few beats in the background to a network that spans the globe encompassing billions in US dollars in ecommerce and allowing live news, music and other media to be streamed from anywhere. Most importantly, it created an environment that allows for endless forms of collaboration between essentially any individual in the world with access. While this has allowed humanity to increase its knowledge positively and exponentially, it has also enabled users with less than noble purposes to increase their knowledge and skillsets as well.

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