LP Magazine

JUL-AUG 2019

LP magazine publishes articles for loss prevention, asset protection, and retail professionals covering shrinkage, investigations, shoplifting, internal theft, fraud, technology, best practices, and career development.

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UNRAVELING THE MYSTERY OF THE DARK WEB 42 JULY–AUGUST 2019 | LOSSPREVENTIONMEDIA.COM T he dark web burst into public awareness in 2013 when the FBI shut down Silk Road, an online black market, and arrested its founder, Ross Ulbricht. The FBI found him through an elaborate sting operation involving an undercover law enforcement agent posing as a drug dealer on the dark web. Through this undercover operation, the FBI was able to find and locate a Silk Road administrator, who gave them access to information about Ulbricht's Bitcoin account. When Ulbricht discovered the administrator had been arrested, he asked the undercover agent posing as a drug dealer to murder the admin. Investigators staged the torture and killing and sent photos of what they said was the corpse to Ulbricht. Ultimately, these questionable tactics led to Ulbricht's own arrest. The media immediately picked up on such an exciting topic. The dark web was known for facilitating illegal activity, including money laundering, drug sales, and even murder. The appeal of the secrecy and mystery behind the dark web led to many articles and news reports; unfortunately, this coverage also propagated a lot of misinformation. The Dark Web Explained The dark web is one of many layers of the Internet, and a lot of terms are associated with this subject. The surface web, also known as the open or clear web, is the part of the Internet we are the most familiar with. It refers to all the websites that are automatically indexed by search engines, which makes them relatively easy to access. Despite being the most well-known part of the Internet, the surface web makes up less than five percent of the Internet. The deep web, or invisible or hidden web, makes up the largest portion of the Internet—between 92 and 96 percent. It is an online repository of back-end information and includes financial transactions, public records, medical records, and password-protected sites. Deep web addresses consist of a random string of alphanumeric characters, and these websites are encrypted but still accessible using a regular Internet browser. This content is not automatically indexed, so it is a lot harder to find information on your own. Many services exist to help law enforcement and other investigators access the deep web, such as TLO and Accurint, a LexisNexis service. Though the terms dark web and deep web are often used interchangeably, they are vastly different. The dark web exists on the Tor network (Tor stands for "The Onion Router") and can only be accessed with a special browser, most commonly the Tor browser. Tor was designed to be safe, not fast, so it is much slower compared to the Internet we are used to. It is important to remember that the Tor network is a service that is independent of the Tor browser, which is simply a tool to access this network. Like the deep web, the URLs are composed of random alphanumeric characters, but with most often the top-level domain (TLD) of .onion for anonymous sites or .onion.to for non-anonymous sites. Tor sites are sometimes referred to as Tor hidden services, onion sites, or simply onions. The very common misconception is that the dark web and the deep web are the same; in fact, though their web addresses seem similar, it is the .onion top-level domain that indicates a dark web site and requires a special browser to be accessed. The dark web's primary purpose is anonymity, not illicit activity. People use the dark web when they want to protect their identities, for whatever reason. Tor was developed in the 1990s by the United States Naval Research Center as a military-grade application designed to help clandestine operators protect their identities while transferring information. The dark web uses a relay methodology to hide a user's identity behind three proxy layers. Each relay has its own geographical location, which makes it very difficult to trace a user. One of the weaknesses of this system became apparent soon enough: although foreign hackers could not identify the specific users on Tor, they could be sure that they were all US government agents, since no other government was on the dark web. The federal government resolved this issue by making the dark web available to the public in the early 2000s; by increasing the number of users on the dark web, it became significantly more difficult for foreign governments to identify US clandestine agents and operations. The Internet Frontier Foundation, which is largely funded by the federal government, picked it up and continued to develop the code. In 2006, they officially announced the Tor project to the public and made the Tor browser available for use. Today's dark web is a versatile tool, which is what led to the creation of Though the terms dark web and deep web are often used interchangeably, they are vastly different. The dark web exists on the Tor network (Tor stands for "The Onion Router") and can only be accessed with a special browser, most commonly the Tor browser.

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