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6 Reasons You Should Avoid the Dark Web

Advertisement The dark web can be a great resource, providing access to information that you won’t find on the regular internet.But it can also be an—excuse the pun—dark place. There’s plenty of undesirable content you need to avoid. At best, it can be offensive; at worst, it could be highly illegal.Let’s take a closer look…

6 Reasons You Should Avoid the Dark Web

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The dark web can be a great resource, providing access to information that you won’t find on the regular internet.

But it can also be an—excuse the pun—dark place. There’s plenty of undesirable content you need to avoid. At best, it can be offensive; at worst, it could be highly illegal.

Let’s take a closer look at some of the worst things you might find on the dark web.

1. Crypto Scams

If you’ve been following the news, you’ll know that crypto scams are already commonplace across the regular web. The problem even forced Facebook to issue a blanket ban on crypto ads in mid-2018 (though the ban has now been partially lifted).

It should probably come as no surprise, therefore, to learn that crypto scams are even more common on the dark web.

The scammers use the same techniques as on the regular web, but the lack of regulation means they are less likely to be shut down by ad networks, forums, and other places where the scams pop up.

Note: If you would like to learn more, we discussed some of the most common crypto scams on our sister site, Blocks Decoded.

2. Exit Scams

Oasis Dark Web marketplace goes offline. Some say it may be an exit scam. We’ll just have to wait and see pic.twitter.com/aKgLTpzQiC

— Catalin Cimpanu (@campuscodi) October 14, 2016

Exit scams occur when a seller stops shipping products but continues to take orders and money.

Because the items sold on the dark web are often illegal (guns, drugs, etc.) and payments are made in Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies, the buyer has no avenues for redress or compensation.

Some of the most famous exit scams on the dark web include Olympus Market and Empire in September 2018, and the Evolution darknet market in 2015.

The owners of the Evolution market reportedly walked away with more than $12 million in Bitcoins that were in escrow.

3. Hoaxes on the Dark Web

isis red room dark web

The dark web is full of hoaxes—almost all of which want you to part with your money in exchange for nothing in return.

Understandably, the hoaxes come in many forms; people are creative.

Some of the hoaxes are on the sickening end of the spectrum. Probably the most well-known example is that of “red rooms.” The rooms purport to show live torture of animals and humans, as well as live rape and even murder.

We’re not saying they are all fake—we have no desire to do the required research, but the received wisdom among regular dark web users is that that they are at best staged and at worst a money-grabbing scam.

One particular incident in August 2015 promised the torture of seven ISIS prisoners, even claiming that the viewers could direct the action via an interactive chat. There was quite a buzz around the event on Reddit and 4chan.

Then, three minutes before the action was due to begin, the site went down. Half an hour later it was back, thanking people for taking part. When the “source footage” was eventually uploaded, the camera froze every time the torture was about to start.

A suspiciously fake-looking FBI seizure notice popped up a few days later.

Other hoaxes take advantage of people who want to use illegal services (like hitmen, often referred to as the Nigerian princes of the dark web) and buy illegal products. If you ever try to procure these services and products, you’ll almost always end up out of pocket.

4. Terrorism

Anti-terrorism authorities have uncovered multiple instances of terrorist groups using the dark web to coordinate their actions.

In early 2015, it was discovered that the Al-Hayat Media Center, which is affiliated with ISIS, launched a new dark web site to disseminate information. Its regular web site even had explicit instructions on how to access the dark web content.

Rawti Shax (an offshoot of the Kurdish jihadist group Ansar al-Islam) was also found to have a dark web presence in October 2015.

After the 2015 Paris attacks, the Anonymous hacktivist group managed to gain control of one such ISIS-sympathizing site and replace it with a Prozac advert.

5. Illegal Pornography

Illegal pornography is rife on the dark web. The biggest issue is arguably that of child pornography and its associated pedophile rings.

In 2015, the FBI famously busted a massive child porn site on the dark web by using malware, exploits in Adobe Flash, and other hacking tricks. The authorities gained control of the North Carolina server and let it run for two weeks before shutting it down.

Here’s how the court filing explained the FBI’s approach:

Pursuant to that authorization, on or about and between February 20, 2015, and March 4, 2015, each time any user or administrator logged into Website A by entering a username and password, the FBI was authorized to deploy the Network Investigative Tool (NIT) which would send one or more communications to the user’s computer. Those communications were designed to cause the receiving computer to deliver to a computer known to or controlled by the government data that would help identify the computer, its location, other information about the computer, and the user of the computer accessing Website A. That data included: the computer’s actual IP address, and the date and time that the NIT determined what that IP address was; a unique identifier generated by the NIT a series of numbers, letters, and/or special characters) to distinguish the data from that of other computers; the type of operating system running on the computer, including type (e.g., Windows), version (e.g., Windows 7), and architecture (e.g., x86); information about whether the NIT had already been delivered to the computer; the computer’s Host Name; the computer’s active operating system username; and the computer’s MAC address.

In the end, the FBI compromised more than 1,000 computers, and it arrested three men.

And child pornography isn’t the only problem. Content that lies in a legal grey area—such as revenge porn—is also a massive problem that the authorities are struggling to grapple with.

6. Phishing Scams

We’re all familiar with how phishing scams work on the regular web. And if you’re semi-computer-literate, you probably back yourself not to get caught out.

On the dark web, it’s much easier to fall victim due to the way web addresses are presented. For instance, take the 2016 example of a DuckDuckGo phishing attempt.

Here’s how the site’s .onion domain should look:

  • http://3g2upl4pq6kufc4m.onion/

And here’s how the phishing domain looked:

  • http://3g2up5afx6n5miu4.onion/

Are you confident that you’d spot the differences while browsing at speed?

Worse still, in some instances, the fake sites aren’t just duplicating their intended targets—they been proven to be proxies for the real sites. In practice, that means they can perform man-in-the-middle attacks and either steal or modify data as it passes through the fake site.

The Dark Web Isn’t All Bad

Look, the dark web has a terrible reputation, both for the things we have discussed in this article and a lot more besides.

But there is some good stuff out there if you know where to look. To find fun places on the dark web, why not read our articles on the best dark web sites that you won’t find on Google


The Best Dark Web Websites You Won’t Find on Google




The Best Dark Web Websites You Won’t Find on Google

The dark web isn’t for everyone, but it’s worth exploring some parts of it. We’ve uncovered the best dark web websites for you.
Read More

and the best dark web browsers for your devices


The Best Dark Web Browser for Your Device




The Best Dark Web Browser for Your Device

Want to access the dark web? You need to use a dark web browser that can take you there and protect your privacy too.
Read More

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Explore more about: Bitcoin, Dark Web, Online Security, Scams.

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Register Lecture: Hidden heroes of Alan Turing’s Enigma

Live code-breaking and beer A curse follows Enigma, the cryptography device deployed by Adolf Hitler’s military during the WWII to protect their Morse communications from the Allies. That curse? Invisibility. Alan Turing has – now – become intrinsically linked with cracking Enigma, a machine of fiendish complexity capable of 159 million, million, million (1.59×1020) settings…

Register Lecture: Hidden heroes of Alan Turing’s Enigma

Live code-breaking and beer

A curse follows Enigma, the cryptography device deployed by Adolf Hitler’s military during the WWII to protect their Morse communications from the Allies. That curse? Invisibility.

Alan Turing has – now – become intrinsically linked with cracking Enigma, a machine of fiendish complexity capable of 159 million, million, million (1.59×1020) settings that demanded the perfect marriage of mathematics and engineering to break. Turing’s work would blow open secrets that helped alter the war – for example, alerting the RAF to Luftwaffe raids during the Battle of Britain. And yet, Turing received little by way of the recognition he deserved for decades – quite the opposite, in fact.

But Turing is not the only one to have suffered Enigma’s curse of invisibility. Join The National Museum of Computing on June 26 for a special Register lecture journey back 80 years to the eve of the Second World War, to hear the stories of those behind Turing.

Hear about who provided a critical leg-up to the struggling English in cracking Enigma and who helped build the Bombe – the device to mechanise the mathematics of code breaking. Eight decades after the start of the War, TNMOC will go inside the pioneering work of the Polish General Staff Cipher Bureau in Warsaw and shine a light on the roles of Gordon Welchman and Doc Keen, the long-overlooked Bombe engineering team lead, at Bletchley. Together, they helped put code-breaking at Bletchley Park on an industrial footing.

Your guide for this crypto history trip will be Paul Kellar MBE, a leading member of the Bombe Rebuild project – based at TNMOC as a working tribute to those who contributed to breaking the Enigma.

Starring with Paul will be a working Enigma to help demonstrate “knowing your enemy” and illustrate how the Bombe could attack and break the Enigma on a daily basis. You will get the opportunity, too, to participate in a live code-cracking exercise with Checking Machine – the last stage in recovering the Key of the Day after the Bombe had found the crucial settings.

Join fellow Reg readers with the TNMOC crypto historians and their machines at the Rugby Tavern, 19 Great James St, London, WC1N 3ES. Doors open at 18:30 BST with Paul taking the mic at 19:00. An audience question-and-answer session will follow a break to re-charge mind and grey matter. Get your ticket here. ®

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Breaking Up Facebook ‘Won’t Be Enough,’ Says Morgan Stanley Boss. Here’s His Proposal.

Breaking Up Facebook ‘Won’t Be Enough,’ Says Morgan Stanley Boss. Here’s His Proposal.

New York City’s just-concluded “blockchain week” was palpably more subdued than it has been in years past. (Or maybe I was just not invited back to the parties after my 2018 travelogue.)
In any case, I took a brief break from the madness of the Fortune 500 issue close to drop by the Consensus conference, the week’s marquee event, where I moderated a security-themed panel on Monday. My panelists were Tom Glocer, the lead board director of Morgan Stanley and former chief executive of Thomson Reuters, and Nadav Zafrir, the CEO of startup foundry Team8 and former head of the Israeli Defense Forces’ Cyber Command and Unit 8200, Israel’s equivalent of the U.S.’s National Security Agency. (For a recording, see video No. 15 here.)

Below are some soundbites from our conversation. I asked Glocer about a post he had published in the fall on his excellent personal blog in which he pondered who, or what, should own people’s data. His response imagined a world in which people might own their own information and where they would, using individual digital wallets, license the rights to corporations.

Rather than the current situation where we just weren’t paying attention and Google and Facebook, etc., built up huge caches of our private information, you would have the choice to sell Google your search history in return for a micropayment. Or you would sell Apple your photos in return for a micropayment, etc. I think it’s an interesting way of turning the current model on its head. But we’re not going to get there without some very significant government intervention along the lines of the debate that’s been raging about Facebook. Tech alone won’t achieve this jiu-jitsu move.

Since he brought it up, I asked Glocer for his thoughts on breaking up Facebook.

Just breaking up Instagram, Facebook, and WhatsApp won’t be enough. Facebook has over 2.5 billion folks. If you really wanted to go after them, I think you would have to go deeper and essentially declare a date by which they’d have to erase all of the data they’ve achieved to date and start fresh with what I’d call an informed consent and maybe, yes, micropayments. There’s no intrinsic reason why it’s awful that [Facebook] owns Instagram and WhatsApp…. If Mark [Zuckerberg] came out and just declared that on June 30th of next year we’re going to wipe out our histories—here’s your chance to download your own, in case you want to keep it, and here are the new rules of the road that you get to explicitly opt into—I would leave all those companies in his world.

The audience tended to agree. When I asked them whether Facebook should get the Sherman Anti-Trust treatment, only about a third of the crowd raised their hands.

Facebook, through the malicious hijacking of its targeted marketing machinery, has greatly contributed to an erosion of faith in traditional institutions. Nadav Zafrir summed up the predicament well. When I asked him what is the most pressing, most frightening threat the world faces, he replied without hesitation.

In one word: Trust. We are now in a world where it’s very hard for us to trust the simple things that, as my generation grew up, we were accustomed to trusting—our democracies. Our voting systems…. The irony is that the blockchain has a great potential to offer that [trust], yet it has become synonymous almost with the opposite…. At the end of the day attackers are human. They’re ROI [return on investment]-driven. They’re not super-ninjas or super-humans. They have their limitations. They have their vulnerabilities…. It’s an asymmetric battle when the attackers only need to find one single point of failure in the whole system and it’s game over. Hence, if we take that single point of failure and distribute it in a way where attackers need to hack everybody simultaneously and get everybody’s consensus, we’re flipping the asymmetry and taking control of the situation.

Of course, retaking control of the situation is no simple task, even with the advent of blockchain technology. Zuckerberg is, for his part, exploring how he might reestablish the foundations of his media empire on the footing of blockchains, cryptography, and private messaging. With all the consumer backlash and heat from regulators, it will no doubt take expert jiu-jitsu to pull off.
May the groundwork commence.
A version of this article first appeared in Cyber Saturday, the weekend edition of Fortune’s tech newsletter Data Sheet. Sign up here.

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