By: Tim Sparapani
If you want to buy someone’s private data, it’s disturbingly easy to do. It’s all there for sale on the dark web, a completely anonymous twin of the web most of us use daily.
The dark web (or deep web, if you prefer) is “dark” because the sites on it cannot be indexed by a web crawling browser, such as Google. That makes it hard for ordinary people, and law enforcement, to find specific websites. This anonymity has the advantage of creating a zone of free speech where individuals can communicate, think and explore ideas without government interference.
But it also creates a haven for illicit activity, including the buying and selling of drugs, child pornography and individuals’ private information such as social security numbers, health records and passwords.
People who don’t closely follow privacy issues probably associate the dark web with Silk Road, the infamous illegal drug marketplace that did millions in business before the FBI managed to shut the site down in 2013.
But the death of Silk Road didn’t put an end to the dark web. This shady technological playground is still going strong, and many sites that thrive on the dark web are a daily threat to privacy and the economy.
Over the past three months, the website LeakedSource has uncovered huge caches of account data being sold on the dark web from eight websites including Twitter, MySpace and LinkedIn. In some cases, those accounts came from privacy breaches at the web companies. In other cases, data thieves were able to steal information directly from users.
The way the account information was stolen matters less than the fact that so much of it is for sale. Need a Netflix password? They’re available for pennies on the dark web. You can also get stolen passwords for Hulu, HBO Go and Spotify.
The dark web has also become a haven for child pornography. According to an article on Wired, over 80% of dark web searches are related to pedophilia.