Dark web in the spotlight

Websites in a dark web generally exist behind multiple layers of encryption and house illegal information, drug trafficking sites…and many other illicit items

by S BIRRUNTHA/ pic by AFP

THE Internet is a much more complex place than you will probably realise. Like an iceberg, the surface web makes up only 4% of the Internet and the other 96% is considered part of the deep and dark web.

The top layer is where popular search engines such as Google, Bing and Wikipedia operate.

The layer of the iceberg in the water is called the “deep web”. It contains 90% of the information on the Internet, but is not accessible by Surface Web crawlers.

Information related to academic, medical records, legal documents, scientific reports, subscription information and government resources is generally stored in the deep web.

The bottom layer of the iceberg is called the “dark web”. It consists of websites that use public Internet, but require special software to access, and is not indexed by search engines to ensure anonymity.

The websites in a dark web generally exist behind multiple layers of encryption and cannot be found by using traditional web browsers.

The dark web houses illegal information, drug trafficking sites, political protests, private communications, hidden services and many other illicit items.

According to UK daily, The Sun, the dark web was actually created by the US government to allow spies to exchange information anonymously.

This anonymity has, however, attracted hackers and criminals to take advantage and seek to avoid detection by law enforcement agencies.

News reports have stated how dark web was used by people to hire hitmen, steal credit cards and passports, as well as conduct match fixing and illegal gambling.

American blog, List25.com, stated the dark web is a huge marketplace for criminals and is said to generate at least US$500,000 (RM2.1 million) per day.

“Normal currency can’t be used on the dark web. Users regularly depend on bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to make market transactions. These are especially popular because they are virtually untraceable,” it said.

Accessing the dark web is technically not an illegal or a difficult process. By simply installing the “The Onion Router” also known as “Tor”, almost anyone can start browsing the dark web.

UK-based tech news website, Tech Advisor, said the difficult thing of surfing this space is not knowing where to look on the dark web since most of the time it is used for illegal purposes.

The tech portal noted that surfing the dark net has its own risks. “Plus, there is a whole host of malware which can cause havoc to their device and data, so there are certainly risks,” it said. Although theft and cyber-crime cases are nothing new, what happens in the dark web is deemed to be as advanced fraud.

The Malaysian Computer Emergency Response Team reported over 800 fraud and 100 intrusion cases on the Internet for the month of October alone.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail, meanwhile, has urged parents to monitor their children’s activities on social media to prevent them from falling prey to cyber crime.

“The latest findings have shown the disgusting nature of the dark web on child pornography which was downloaded by Internet users in Malaysia.

“The issue of exploitation of children for sex was very worrying, especially in the current borderless world which provides easy access to gadgets and the Internet,” she said in Parliament last week.

Despite the negative connotation, there are thousands of websites available on the dark web which provide useful information in the form of big data.

The good thing about big data is that it is able to detect and prevent criminal activities such as whitecollar crimes, fraud and corruption.

Most law enforcement agencies abroad often use the dark web when searching for crucial and sensitive information.

The danger of big data collection is that, if it falls into the wrong hands, the impact could be highly destructive and damaging.

The efforts by law enforcement to combat criminal activities on the dark web may require more of a proactive approach by professionals as it is not similar to traditional cyber security crimes.

Transparency International Malaysia (TIM) president Datuk Akhbar Satar said there is a need to raise the knowledge and capability on dark web across the authorities in Malaysia.

“The government should consider forming a federal crime agency with a wide range of specialist capabilities to fight serious organised crime.

“The agency can respond to a wide range of threats in the country, including data-stealing, human trafficking, drug and weapon smuggling, child pornography and corruption,” he stated in June on the TIM website.


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