What is the Darknet? If you only knew.

Oh where to start with the infamous Darknet?


Metcalfe’s Law states that the value of a network is proportional to the square of the number on nodes connected to it. As such the Internet is incredibly valuable.  If you count the number of connections to the Darknet, it’s arguably even more valuable.  It can also be incredibly risky.

Internet usage continues to grow exponentially on a daily basis; both viewable by the browser as well as the Deep Web. However, that underworld usage now also includes criminals and hostile nation states actively seeking to compromise the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the information assets accessible via the Internet. Most law enforcement agencies and government agencies see the Deep Web as a haven for serious criminality.

Today nearly 3 billion Internet users can theoretically access an estimated 14 trillion web pages across almost a billion websites via the World Wide Web. Only about 1 percent of that content is exposed to, indexed by and accessible to search engines like Google. The remaining 99 percent of the content resides in a part of the web known as the Deep Web (also called the Deepnet, Invisible Web, or Hidden Web) and is only accessible with authentication via credentials.

So, let’s start with the basics. Have you heard of Darknets?  The term “Dark” in IT Security is often overused and confusing.  For simplicity, a few high-level  definitions:

    • World Wide Web is what each of us uses each day and is accessed through a browser which, in most cases, is indexed and searchable through a search engine such as Google, Yahoo, Bing or many others.
      • Deep Web (also referred to as the Deepnet, Invisible Web, or Hidden Web), is a general high level description of the systems on the internet not visible or identifiable by search engines. Deep Web includes legitimate, useful data within websites as well. For example, many of websites don’t expose certain data to search engines, but once your on the site you can search Deep Web content within the site (i.e. sites that database tax records, travel sites, etc.).
        • Darknet distributed filesharing network, which could be classified as a smaller part of the Deep Web that typically is not accessible from a browser. Access often requires incremental tools such as TOR.
          • Dark Internet, the computers that can no longer be reached via the Internet.
          Not seen on the world wide web exist the Deep Web (also referred to as the Deepnet, Invisible Web, or Hidden Web), as well as the Darknet

          A further subset of web content resides in an even deeper netherworld known as the Dark Web and accessible via a Darknet. Simply stated a Darknet is a private network that provides secure connectivity between trusted peers, often using non-standard ports and protocols, proxies that provide obfuscation of location, and/or air gapped physical media. These are sometimes also referred to as FTF (Friend To Friend) networks.

          From a security and risk standpoint it is not always necessary to expose ones networks and data to open hostility. Private Darknets are another option to provide secure connectivity between trusted peers via a calculated a tradeoff between network reach and network risk.

          Also, if properly leveraged, information from the Darknet can act as an early warning to threats that are evolving, and specifics to how your company is being targeted. Most paid security intelligence services now include data from the Darknet.

          The Darknet discussion has many permutations and subtopics, to read more, see our whitepaper by Dennis Devlin, CISO. The paper includes topics such as:

            • TOR – a tool often used to access Deep Web components and often is confused with the Darknet itself
              • how do you access and get info from the Darknet (tools and techniques)?
                • how do good guys and bad guys use it?
                  • how does it impact security?
                    • when are you “part of the Darknet”?


                    The Darknet can be complex, but understanding it is important for anyone trying to protect their organization.
                    Click here to learn more by downloading our whitepaper.

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