Tor Rules – Tales From the Darknet
The Darknet is such a scary description of a virtual world that’s separate from Google search engines, news aggregators, and social media. Traditional browsers don’t work in this world. Tor rules! What’s on the darknet and why should businesses care? Because, the darknet is where stolen business data is sold after a breach in security.
A Harvard Business Review article, The Darknet: A Quick Introduction for Business Leaders, describes the duality of the internet. The open web is the place where 99.9% of those reading this article spend their time online. Marketplaces such as Amazon and eBay, message boards like broadwayworld.com/board and boards.dallascowboys.com and finally social media sites such as Facebook and Snapchat are found on the open web. Sites on the open web are accessible by anyone using either Chrome, Explorer, Firefox, Safari, or other common browsers. Search engines such as Bing, Google, and Yahoo perform well in locating and displaying links to specific open web sites. The darknet includes marketplaces, message boards, and websites too. Although, darknet sites can’t be accessed via search engines. Common web browsers don’t work either. The Onion Router (Tor) is the most widely used browser on the darknet. Tor was originally developed by the U.S. Navy in an effort to protect government communications. Tor obscures the IP address of the users device which is a critical element in the success of the darknet. Anonymity reigns andBitcoin is the currency of the realm.
Business leaders are paying particular attention to the darknet marketplaces where merchants promote their wares. On these marketplaces, merchandise may include weapons, illegal drugs, personal identities, corporate data, and other more distasteful items not available on the open web. In 2013, a darknet marketplace, Silk Road, was closed by the FBI for selling illegal drugs on the site. Closing Silk Road didn’t stop the sale of illegal items online. An ARS Technica article found some good news for law enforcement via research conducted by the Dutch government; cryptomarkets have grown substantially in the past few years, but not explosively. The total number of markets is only six times larger than in 2013. It seems odd that a six-fold increase in illegal sites in 3-years is considered good news.
What’s does the future have in store for the darknet? Google’s top-rated futurist speaker, Thomas Frey, offers these 9 critically important predictions:
- The darknet will become even darker – The very nature of it forces buyers and sellers to consistently innovate to protect their identities and their lucrative professions.
- Every failure will spawn a dozen workarounds – Each flaw will be repaired quickly by the sub-culture of users to preserve and enhance the environment.
- Better UI/UX will dramatically lower the geek factor – Some of the early appeal of the darknet was the feeling of exclusivity found in its users. They perceived themselves as the brightest people on the planet able to find hidden gems of data where others could not nor dare not tread. Mr. Frey postulates that as more people become aware of the darknet better tools will surface to improve usability by a crowd of non-geek users.
- Other cryptocurrencies will compete with Bitcoin as the payment system of choice – 26 cryptocurrencies have a market cap of $1 million USD. The top 10 cryptocurrencies after Bitcoin are Ripple, Litecoin, Ethereum, Dash, Dogecoin, Banxshares, Stellar, Bitshares, Bytecoin, and Nxt.
- The customer base will grow exponentially – Google searches for the term darknet have been steadily increasing since 2013 with a strong spike in July 2016. As the stigma associated with using the Tor browser subsides, curious online users will venture in hopes of finding something interesting.
- The darknet marketplace will expand exponentially to serve new customers – The entrepreneurial spirit is alive and thriving. Frey estimates that Silk Road was generating over $600 million in annual transactions prior to its closure. That’s big business!
- Private delivery services will appear to ensure untraceable, secure, and anonymous delivery – Think silent drones that are undetectable by street cams, radar, infrared scanners, and they log no record of pickup or delivery points.
- A uniquely crafted avatar will emerge as the first celebrity face / voice – The appearance of a celebrity promoting the darknet is a natural evolution in order to mainstream the community.
- The darknet will invent its own justice system – When an injustice occurs on the darknet a victim may not call the police or an attorney to correct the infraction. Frey believes this vacuum will be occupied by fixer sites that can adjudicate and execute what may be termed darknet justice.
The darknet is real and growing. It is even headed to mainstream. As a business owner or IT executive, what action can you take to prevent finding your data on a darknet site? We documented the steps to secure your business data here in August 2016. These include:
- Installation of antivirus software is the most common way to protect your business network and will defend against most types of malware.
- Deploy firewalls.
- Invest in an off-site data backup solution, so any information compromised or lost during a breach can easily be recovered from an alternate location.
- Propagate encryption software to protect sensitive data such as employee records, client/customer information and financial statements.
- Include two-step authentication or password security software for internal programs to reduce the likelihood of password cracking.
- One important solution that does not involve software and that many small businesses overlook is cyber security insurance.
- Keep your software up to date.
- Educate your employees on cyber security.
- Implement formal cyber security policies.