While the Internet appears to be a flat ecosystem on its surface, there are actually numerous different layers at play. In reality, there are three (3) major areas of the Internet to differentiate between: the Surface Web, the Deep Web, and the Dark Web. When on the topic of the Dark Web, the Deep Web may be thrown in or used interchangeably, but the two different Internet layers vary quite a bit, especially with regards to content.
The Surface Web
Let’s begin with the Surface Web. At its most basic level, the Surface Web is essentially everything that we as Internet users can access through web crawlers or your favorite search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, or Bing. With the Surface Web being the Internet layer with which most people are familiar, it is assumed that the Surface Web contains most of the information on the Internet, but truthfully, it is just the tip of the iceberg, both in visibility and significance. Most estimates state that approximately 4% of the Internet is accessible through the Surface Web and its search engines, which is also the reason we commonly see an infographic of an iceberg used to display the different Internet layers.
The Deep Web
Next stop: the Deep Web. As mentioned previously, the Deep Web is often confused with the Dark Web and the nefarious activities performed therein. However, most of the Deep Web content is simply an Internet layer that we cannot access through a search engine but doesn’t necessarily contain the wayward content that can be found specifically when accessing the Dark Web (or at least no more than the Surface Web). Common sources of information on the Deep Web might include government databases, healthcare information, webmail, or even Netflix subscriptions. Other examples might be areas of a website that a search engine simply cannot access due to its inability to locate that information through search tools found on said website. For example, while the FDIC website can be used to search for a bank’s financial information through a search function provided on the website, Google cannot use this function, as Google searches for content using links provided on that website. If there is an area of the website that a web-crawling search engine cannot access using these links, this content would make up part of the Deep Web. The Deep Web may not be widely understood, but it is an area of the web that most of us access on a regular basis.
The Dark Web
This brings us to the Dark Web. Unlike the Surface Web and the majority of Deep Web content, the Dark Web cannot be accessed through regular web browsers such as Internet Explorer, Google Chrome, or Mozilla Firefox. The most common tool for accessing the Dark Web remains a browser called Tor, or “The Onion Router,” which was created by the military to protect oversea communications. Tor was eventually released to the public in 2004, leading to a group of developers creating the Tor Project, the method most use to access Dark Web today. While not every site on the Dark Web supports illegal activity, the vast majority of black market activity occurs on the Dark Web today.
The Dark Web Marketplace
Now that you have a general understanding of the Dark Web, let’s discuss the markets that can be found on this seedy underbelly of the Internet. Just as the users can purchase products through sources such as Amazon and eBay on the Surface Web, Tor users can purchase illegal products or services through Dark Web counterparts. There are many different markets available on the Dark Web selling variety of stolen and illegal products, including weapons, drugs, and stolen information. Recently, 146.6 million United States citizens’ information was stolen through the Equifax breach, so you can assume that there’s a 50% chance (there are just over 300 million people in the U.S. today) that your Social Security Number (at a minimum) is currently for sale on the Dark Web.
When looking through Dark Web pricing for the information, you might be pretty surprised at how cheap and easy it is to buy your stolen information.
There are also more specialized markets to purchase cybercrime services, showing us why cybercriminal activity is so common. These nearly-anonymous cybercrime markets make it much easier for less experienced cybercriminals to distribute malware or target businesses. Some of the products and services readily available include:
- DDoS Services – $7 per hour
- Email Lists – $50 for 500,000 emails
- Botnets – $60 Daily
- Basic Malware – $10 Average
- Ransomware Kits – Free – $1000 (Free normally includes a cut of the ransom)
- Compromised Website – $10 – $15
- ATM Skimming Devices – $400
- Online hacking tutorials – 0$ – $500
- Money mules for hire – % of the money