The Dark Web... Part 3

Mike Halsey MVP
May 30, 2011
Updated • May 30, 2011

In the first two parts of this article series I've written about how Iran is reportedly planning to build their own in-country Internet and asked if western countries want to constrain the Internet. In this part I want to look at how criminals and terrorists use the Internet, and how nations are now using it in war.

With criminal gangs the most common examples of misuse of the Internet are spam and malware. Criminal gangs have built botnets, robot networks of hundreds of thousands of infected PCs. They use these to send billions of spam emails, which offer a surprisingly high financial return or to launch denial of service or other attacks. Many of these attacks go unreported as companies are unwilling to publicise the fact that they are being blackmailed.

These criminal gangs are the easiest to foil and security companies and major tech firms including Microsoft have been extremely effective in the last couple of years at taking these gangs offline.

The problem here is anonymity. These criminals use the weaknesses of the Internet to hide their identities. Yesterday I talked about how a major British footballer was unmasked on Twitter despite having an injunction passed by the High Court forbidding the revelation of an affair. While it is now extremely difficult for celebrities, public figures and even the man on the street to maintain their anonymity online, criminals find it remarkably easy.

It's partly because of this that changes have been proposed to the infrastructure of the Internet, more on this in the final part of this article tomorrow.

Another important consideration however is terrorism. Terrorists commonly use a network system known as 'darknets'. These are networks where information is distributed across a network of nodes. Should one node be taken down the network remains and with each node only knowing the address of one other node, hiding information and identities becomes simple.

Access to a darknet is commonly through a program which makes the information you view impossible to intercept and your identity impossible to trace. These networks have been used for everything from secret scientific research to file-sharing, terrorism and they have been utilised by paedophile rings. If you want to find out more about darknets there is a fascinating article online here.

It's not only criminal gangs and terrorists who are exploiting the way the Internet works though, as now it's been demonstrated (beyond reasonable doubt anyway) that major world powers have got in on the act too. The attacks last year on some of Iran's infrastructure with power stations is a good, and currently the most high-profile, example. A virus was implanted into their systems that temporarily took some systems offline across the country. Security experts believed an attack of this scale, and a virus of this complexity could only have been developed with the resources of another nation state and, as such, this is now considered the first example of cyber-warfare.

We can be certain that activities like this are taking place all the time as the nature and structure of the Internet are exploited by those who wish to cause harm or loss to others. It is very clear then that policing the Internet is going to take much more than just security firms and specialist units within local police forces.

In the final part of this article series tomorrow I'll look to the future and ask if the Internet is to change, how should it change and what will the repercussions be for security, privacy and freedom?


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  1. ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    Doesn’t Windows 8 know that www. or http:// are passe ?

    1. Martin Brinkmann said on August 4, 2012 at 7:57 pm

      Well it is a bit difficulty to distinguish between domains and files for instance.

    2. Leonidas Burton said on September 4, 2023 at 4:51 am

      I know a service made by google that is similar to Google bookmarks.

  2. VioletMoon said on August 16, 2023 at 5:26 pm

    @Ashwin–Thankful you delighted my comment; who knows how many “gamers” would have disagreed!

  3. Karl said on August 17, 2023 at 10:36 pm


    The comments section under this very article (3 comments) is identical to the comments section found under the following article:

    Not sure what the issue is, but have seen this issue under some other articles recently but did not report it back then.

  4. Anonymous said on August 25, 2023 at 11:44 am

    Omg a badge!!!
    Some tangible reward lmao.

    It sucks that redditors are going to love the fuck out of it too.

  5. Scroogled said on August 25, 2023 at 10:57 pm

    With the cloud, there is no such thing as unlimited storage or privacy. Stop relying on these tech scums. Purchase your own hardware and develop your own solutions.

    1. lollmaoeven said on August 27, 2023 at 6:24 am

      This is a certified reddit cringe moment. Hilarious how the article’s author tries to dress it up like it’s anything more than a png for doing the reddit corporation’s moderation work for free (or for bribes from companies and political groups)

  6. El Duderino said on August 25, 2023 at 11:14 pm

    Almost al unlmited services have a real limit.

    And this comment is written on the dropbox article from August 25, 2023.

  7. John G. said on August 26, 2023 at 1:29 am

    First comment > @ilev said on August 4, 2012 at 7:53 pm

    For the God’s sake, fix the comments soon please! :[

  8. Kalmly said on August 26, 2023 at 4:42 pm

    Yes. Please. Fix the comments.

  9. Kim Schmidt said on September 3, 2023 at 3:42 pm

    With Google Chrome, it’s only been 1,500 for some time now.

    Anyone who wants to force me in such a way into buying something that I can get elsewhere for free will certainly never see a single dime from my side. I don’t even know how stupid their marketing department is to impose these limits on users instead of offering a valuable product to the paying faction. But they don’t. Even if you pay, you get something that is also available for free elsewhere.

    The algorithm has also become less and less savvy in terms of e.g. English/German translations. It used to be that the bot could sort of sense what you were trying to say and put it into different colloquialisms, which was even fun because it was like, “I know what you’re trying to say here, how about…” Now it’s in parts too stupid to translate the simplest sentences correctly, and the suggestions it makes are at times as moronic as those made by Google Translations.

    If this is a deep-learning AI that learns from users’ translations and the phrases they choose most often – which, by the way, is a valuable, moneys worthwhile contribution of every free user to this project: They invest their time and texts, thereby providing the necessary data for the AI to do the thing as nicely as they brag about it in the first place – alas, the more unprofessional users discovered the translator, the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, the greater the aggregate of linguistically illiterate users has become, and the worse the language of this deep-learning bot has become, as it now learns the drivel of every Tom, Dick and Harry out there, which is why I now get their Mickey Mouse language as suggestions: the inane language of people who can barely spell the alphabet, it seems.

    And as a thank you for our time and effort in helping them and their AI learn, they’ve lowered the limit from what was once 5,000 to now 1,500…? A big “fuck off” from here for that! Not a brass farthing from me for this attitude and behaviour, not in a hundred years.

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