It’s finally happened. A phishing email actually made me a little nervous. So much so I had to shut down certain accounts for a little while with hope that the email was just a scam. But what made this one a little more realistic was that it was written with no spelling mistakes, no grammatical errors (from what I could tell) and it contained a password I used for my account(s) a year or so ago. Just having the password there in print from an unknown individual helped validate the threat. They wanted a large sum of money in the form of bitcoin so they wouldn’t send the information they gathered to my contact list. They stated they had infected one of my devices and have been monitoring the activity for six months. They gave me their username and claimed to be a user on the dark web. This gave me further chills. As you read an email like this your mind starts working and you start to think that even if they didn’t have any screen shots or factual evidence they could photoshop anything or simply create false items to share with everyone. Considering the business I’m in I went to full lock-down mode as the email stated I had 48 hours to pay or they will release the information. I for one do not pay ransom for things like this. I would rather deal with the aftermath and double check that all security measures are in place. But it still made me nervous.
Before we begin getting into if it’s a place you should visit or not, let’s discuss what the three elements are and how it all breaks down. You by now have looked at the above picture or have seen examples with the iceberg. The top 10% is the internet you all are familiar with. It consists of friendly search engines like Google, Bing and Yahoo. The websites are indexed and can be visited by the general public. This is referred to as the “Surface Web”. Public access and indexed.
Then there is the “Deep Web”. These are webpages / sites that are not indexed by your friendly search engines. They are websites behind security firewalls, sites only accessible by membership or behind a username and password access. Intranet sites used by companies and organizations. Government files, secret files, items that the general public has no access too or is illegal for you to access. This is the biggest section of the iceberg. For example you have a telephone company, their website for public access in on the surface web. Anyone can go there and visit. Now the deep side of that site which is not indexed by the surface has files on every client they have, billing information, banking information, circuit designs and product configurations etc. Everything you wouldn’t want the general public knowing. All these things make up the “Deep Web”.
The Dark Web is just another small percentage of the iceberg. Maybe 10%. It’s been said that it may contain about 50,000 websites but because its on the Dark Web there is no indexing search engine, or there is no indexing search engine like Google. You can only access it through a specially configured browser called Tor Onion and websites housed there pretty much have a .onion instead of .com or .ca etc. This place is more the wild west of the internet. It’s been said you can buy anything from drugs to guns or even hire a hit-man, view human torture, buy and sell human beings, porn and snuff films, documents that have been illegally downloaded from government sites or deep web sites and other things I don’t want to mention here. Still want to go? Maybe. The Dark Web as far as I’m concerned is fluidic space and this is where the anonymity comes from when used correctly. Unlike our traditional internet where when you want to access a website you type in the domain (or search for it) and the fastest route through the multitude of servers and routers is chosen and bango you’re on the site. With the Tor Onion network, there are thousands of users and servers just like the regular internet but when you are accessing a .onion site you could be bounced a few times from server all over the world. Yes this makes bringing up the site and other things a little slower than you are used to, but because it can be bounced all over it makes it pretty hard to trace when you have all your security measures in place. So before we get into how you should do this, let’s get back into how I got here to begin with.
As the phishing email stated, they gave me a user name they used on the Dark Web. I wanted to go in and see if my personal information was there and how they got it and if there was a way for me to remove it. But the more I thought about it the more I realized if it did indeed reside on the Dark Web there would be no way for me to ever delete it. For the record none of my information was sent to my contacts so the threat was null and void. But I wanted my revenge. Then in dawned on me like a ray of sunshine, well a little one anyway considering but a company i have services with had my personal information hacked a year or so ago. Thank goodness I don’t give companies my DL number or SIN as mine and other peoples private information was stolen and probably bought and sold on the Dark Web. The password shown to me in the email was the one I used for them long ago. The email address they used was the one I had for them. Oddly enough they spoofed my email address which means the phishing email came from my email address to my email address so I couldn’t reply to it. I can see how people that are not in the know would panic and opt to pay but I do wish that they would contact someone first. A family member or someone in the IT service industry to check out the equipment and assist in locking them down and possibly teaching them about possible security risks and what to look for in these type of emails. But as I said this particular one made me nervous and I have over 20 years in the IT Industry. So don’t be ashamed to ask questions. You can always reach out to us CONTACT US for any questions you may have. We answer them for free 🙂
I know what most of you are saying, just breakdown the email and have a look at the headers etc. Yup I could have done that but people are good at hiding themselves and I was more concerned with locking everything down first.
So let’s move on to how you could possibly get onto the Dark Web. You should be aware that many factions of your government are probably already on the Dark Web monitoring it and trying to catch potential harmful activity. Don’t fool yourself, they are very good and the slightest slip and they got you. Also please don’t go there asking for someone to hack your ex’s facebook account etc or ask for someone to teach you the ways of hacking. You will be setting yourself up. If you want that kind of information stay on the surface, be careful what type of sites you visit or maybe purchase a book or two. Most hacking attempts are done with phishing emails. They want your password and username, credit card details, personal info etc. Keep your passwords strong by using symbols within words, numbers. A lot of script kiddies use programs that keep trying different words and configurations. Make up a word if you can. Use the two phase authentication where possible. Never hit the enter key after entering a password, use the mouse click. I think you get the picture.
- You will want a computer that has absolutely no traces of you or anyone else on it
- Make sure the hard drive is brand new. Even reformatted hard drives have old information on them that can be retrieved with the right software. Don’t take any chances.
- Use a Linux distribution for the Operating System. Hackers love playing with windows and its vulnerabilities. Do not add your real name for the login. Keep everything anonymous.
- Find and install a good VPN service. When setting it up choose a Country not close to you. Yes it will be slower, but it’s safer.
- Download and install Tor Onion from its main site. Be careful not to load it from a mirrored site or possibly a fake one.
- Remain anonymous at all costs!
- Lastly for additional security to yourself and others do not access the Dark Web from your home network. This is something that probably won’t make that much of a difference if you have done the above, but in case of a leak its just an added layer of security.
These points are not to be skipped. You take a chance by going to the dark web and if you miss any of the above points you’re putting yourself at risk. Even if you follow them there still may be one. I’m not an advocate for anyone to go there. Its like a bad area of a city, if you have no business there, then don’t go. I’m a huge advocate for the general users to stay away. If you really want to see what its like then look it up on youtube. Many videos showing what it’s all about. But you won’t find any dark content there. For that you have to enter the zone. But I hope you don’t.
By The Byte