8 things you didn't know about the Deep Web

SINGAPORE - The Deep Web - the part of the Internet that isn't or can't be indexed by search engines like Google - is home to many of the Internet's illicit activities.

In a paper released last month, Trend Micro detailed the anatomy of the Deep Web and exposed some of the criminal activities that take place there.

The folks at Text100 Singapore listed eight things about the Deep Web that we probably didn't know:

1. Cannabis, Cannabis everywhere: Light drugs were the most-exchanged goods, with Cannabis topping the ranking at 27.28 per cent on the buyer breakdown as of 3 June 2015. This was followed by pharmaceutical products like Ritalin and Xanax, hard drugs, and even pirated games and online accounts.

2. It's a bad world for children: Out of the 8,707 suspicious pages that were identified in the Deep Web which included those that host phishing kits, malware or drive-by downloads, or those that run shady marketplaces (used to trade hacking tools, etc.), child exploitation ranked 3rd at 26.07 per cent. Proxy avoidance (31.69 per cent) (URLs that provide VPN access or ways to avoid corporate firewalls) came in 2nd and disease vectors took first place at 33.74 per cent.

3. Let's clean that Bitcoin: Bitcoin is frequently used when purchasing illegal goods and services, and to ensure it maintains its anonymity, Bitcoin-laundering services have surfaced to help increase the anonymity of moving money throughout the Bitcoin system. By "mixing" Bitcoins through a spidery network of microtransactions, users end up with the same amount of money but a harder-to-track transaction trail.

4. Stalking on Cloudnine: Attackers and sometimes even insiders, often dox (the act of researching and broadcasting an individual's personally identifiable information such as dates of birth, social security numbers, personal email addresses, phone numbers, physical addresses, and more) of companies, celebrities, and other public figures. One site-Cloudnine-lists possible dox information for public figures including FBI agents, political figures, US senators, and celebrities.

5. Hire a hitman? Assassination services for hire can also be found in the Deep Web, with prices varying based on the preferred manner of death or injury and the target's status.

6. Surface ties: There are ties between the Deep Web and the "surface web" we all use every day, with more than 25 per cent of ties between the Deep Web and surface web sites analysed are for purposes of child exploitation and pornography.

7. Match-made in malware heaven: The Deep Web can host command-and-control infrastructure for malware. The hidden nature of sites like TOR and 12P and other services makes it easy to host and hide malware controlling servers on the Deep Web. One such malware is CryptoLocker, a ransomware which encrypts victims' personal documents before redirecting them to a site where they can pay to regain access to their files. It is also smart enough to automatically adjust the payment page to cater to a victim's local language and payment means.

8. Law enforcement struggles: Law enforcement agencies face a tough job when it comes to the Deep Web as everything is encrypted, determination of attribution is difficult, and constant fluctuations make it hard to track.

sinsh@sph.com.sg