the Dark Web Part 3:  Onions

 

All the links on this page have been completely tested and are safe - they only exist on the 'safe' internet

In this, my third article on the Dark Web, we are going to delve into the world of what illegal activities occur in the dark web and what success governments around the world, especially the US, are having trying to stop them.  I’ll also try to answer the question “How do you catch thieves on a network that professes to provide anonymous identities?”

Let up do a short review:
 

Who uses the dark web?  I think it’s anyone that wants to be anonymous and legally or illegally buys and sells goods and services or wants to express themselves without being harassed. Perhaps you are just trying to avoid all the advertisements.  Maybe you are tired of receiving a ton of ads about something you just looked up on Amazon?   Law enforcement is active in the dark web.

 We hear a lot about whistleblowers these days.  Ever wonder how someone that works in a very secure facility, like a government worker, “leaks” information to the press?

 

 Then you need to read about SecureDrop, a free software platform developed in the dark web for secure communication between journalists and sources (whistleblowers).[3] It was originally designed and developed under the name DeadDrop.  The first instance of the platform was launched under the name Strongbox by staff at The New Yorker on 15 May 2013. The Freedom of the Press Foundation took over development of DeadDrop under the name SecureDrop, and has since assisted with its installation at several news organizations, including ProPublica, The Guardian, The Intercept, and The Washington Post. 

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For a moment, lets think globally:  As I said in Part 2, The BBC has made its international news website available via the Tor network, in a bid to thwart censorship attempts. The browser can obscure who is using it and what data is being accessed, which can help people avoid government surveillance and censorship. Countries including China, Iran and Vietnam are among those who have tried to block access to the BBC News website or programs. Instead of visiting or bbc.com/news, users of the Tor browser can visit the new bbcnewsv2vjtpsuy.onion web address. 

If you’ve read my previous article (Part 2) then you’ll recognize the use of the terms Onion routers, Bitcoin, networks and routers.  We’ll use them again in this article.  You can click each for a brief review.   

Here is a link to review the TOR project

Some new definitions referenced in this article today are MARKETS, RANSOMWARE, ISP, VPN software, DNS servers and IP addresses.  We'll explain these as we go along.
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We must have a brief discussion about internet technology.  Why?

I suggest at least 2 reasons.  First, Think about your car.  You probably use it all the time.  You might not understand how the car works but you are familiar with some of its parts.  It has a battery.  It needs gas.  It needs oil and you have to change it occasionally.   Air filters and oil filters.  Simple, right?  Like a car, you use the internet all the time, shouldn’t you understand a little bit about some of its parts?

Just for laughs click the "100 technology signs" & read about driving

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Second, to understand how the dark web is different from the surface web (remember the iceberg), it helps to understand a little about the parts that make them up. You are already familiar with some basic terms:  Networks, routers, servers.   

 

You know that web addresses commonly end in “.org” or “.com”  or even “.gov”.  There are hundreds of these referred to as 'domains'.

 

Be amazed:  

There are 2 ways to identify or reference a website.  The first way and the one you're most familiar with is, [for example]  http://www.jamaicabayhomeowners.com   You probably also know that it's no longer necessary to type the http://www.  

The second way is that the address above can be identified and reached using an ‘IP’ address.  It is automatically assigned.  In our example the IP is:   192.168.253.200.    

Why do we have 2 names?  We use them all the time in our English language.  We call them synonyms. 

What’s easier to remember, 192.168.253.200 or jamaicabayhomeowners.com? 

 

The real question is how does a computer know that they are the same?  

Answer:  A Domain Name Server or DNS.  How does it work?  It’s not important to know this now.  When available, Part 4 will discuss this in more detail.   

 

All you need to understand is that DNS & IP addresses help make up the surface internet.  Every single user has an IP address assigned to them – including YOU.   

Read more to understand a DNS

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The Dark Web hides your IP addresses.  All website names in the dark web end in .onion.   Most browsers cannot find ".onion" addresses.   We'll get into a deeper discussion on how this works in Part 4.

Want to see your own IP address?  Click this harmless link:  www.ipdatabase.com

This same website will tell you the IP address if you know the website name. 

This is where our "technical" discussion ends.  Hopefully, you understand a bit more about the internet just like you understand a little bit about your car.

WHAT ARE MARKETS?

One can make a market in the legitimate financial world when a buyer and seller of stock come together.  We can go to a local Lakes Park farmers market to buy our produce and of course we’ve all heard of ‘black markets’.   The dark web has markets.  Below are some ‘ market names’ and their purpose.  Many of these have been shut down by law enforcement but new ones appear all the time

SILK ROAD:  This was an online black market and the first modern darknet market, best known as a platform for selling illegal drugs.  In October 2013, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) shut down the website and arrested the owner.

Silk Road 2.0 came online Nov 2013. Run by former administrators of Silk Road. It was also shut down, and the alleged operator was arrested on 6 November 2014 If you are curious to know what is the original meaning of “Silk Road”  Click this:  

The Book club:  Silk Road had a Tor-based book club that continued to operate following the initial site's closure and even following the arrest of one of its members. Reading material included conspiracy theories and computer hacking. Some of the titles included mainstream books as well as books such as The Anarchist Cookbook and Defeating Electromagnetic Door Locks. Most of the titles on this book club were pirated. It still exists as a private Tor based chatroom.

The Farmer's Market, formerly Adamflowers  was a black market for illegal drugs. It was founded by Marc Peter Willems on or before 2006, and moved operations to the dark web in 2010 using the Tor anonymity network     

Empire Market: 

What sets them apart from other markets are the additional features it offers.  Interestingly enough, Child Porn, services which physically harm others such as kidnapping, murder, torture, etc. are banned along with prostitution.

The Wall Street Market:  This illegitimate Market is being touted as the most innovative and modern dark net marketplace for digital and physical goods.

Valhalla Market: You can get more than 25K items related to Drugs, Body Building, Canabis growing, mushroom growing, Production/distribution, paraphernalia, digital items, self-defense, services, classifieds.

Empire Market, Dream Market and WallStreet Market are some of the most popular dark web marketplaces, which let you buy/sell or procure many types of illegal services with ease

The links listed on this page are safe and are found on the surface internet.  Accessing these markets on the dark web and you will face considerable phishing and all sorts of scams.   Without installing the recommended safe guards on your computer you would be most open to have someone hack your computer and steal your identity! 

Now that we know about dark net markets, let's read about what is being done about them.

In May of 2019  The Justice Department shut down a major directory of dark web drug marketplaces and arrested the alleged owners. NBC News reports: DeepDotWeb provided a directory with access to a host of dark net marketplaces selling illegal narcotics.  The website also provided access to marketplaces for firearms, malicious software and hacking tools. Arrested in France and Israel, they each face a single count of money laundering conspiracy in the U.S. and allegedly received kickback payments through bitcoin earning millions in fees since 2013. These "referral bonuses" allegedly came from darknet marketplaces including .....Dream Market, Valhalla Market and Wall Street Market. This should stifle hundreds of millions of dollars in illegal purchases.

In September of 2019 the California States Attorney announced an Orange County Man was sentenced to 15 Years in Federal Prison for his participation in a Dark Net Methamphetamine Distribution Ring.  You can read more about this here:

Ransomware Attacks:  We’ve discussed these many times at our club meetings.  You’ve read about them in the newspaper.  You’ve seen them on TV.  Many state agencies have been attacked and their websites shutdown and held ransom until they were paid money (bitcoin).

 For instance: 

On or about March 22, 2018, Attackers (often gaining access through phony emails!!) encrypted computers belonging to the City of Atlanta, and directed the Victims to a Ransom Webpage created specifically for that attack. A copy of that Ransom Webpage is shown:

Just since October (2019) Hackers have Hit 5 Healthcare Networks and/or Organizations in 4 States Forcing 1 to Close Permanently, 1 to Halt Admissions, and 1 to Notify 400,000 Patients

November of 2017:

law enforcement arrested an Anchorage Man for Child Pornography Crimes.

 Located on Cogley’s phone and computer were images and videos of child pornography. Also on his computer, and open at the time of the search, was the Tor Browser.  Open within the browser was a file titled, “The Pedophile’s Handbook.”  This file contained chapters about how to abduct and molest children…[and some of the worst things you can imagine or don’t want to imagine].   You can read more about this case at:  

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Summarizing Part 3

Are you beginning to form your own opinion regarding the existence of the dark web?

 

Do you feel like these series of articles are helping you to understand more about what can happen to your identity?    

 

According to TOR website… “Just like Tor users, the developers, researchers, and founders who've made Tor possible are a diverse group of people. But all of the people who have been involved in Tor are united by a common belief: internet users should have private access to an uncensored web”.

Your government wants to be able to “shield” its’ defense secrets from foreign counties.  It’s essential our agencies are able to communicate with each other without being tracked. 

Whistle blowers need a way to communicate without threat of retaliation. 

Law Enforcement is doing all they can to protect you from the deep web.

What’s your opinion?  Your comments will be held strictly confidential. 

In my next and final article about the dark web I'll write about how you can improve your own security and better protect your identity from hackers, scammers & thieves trying to steal from you. 
 
I'll show you ways to dramatically reduce unwanted adds and popups.