There’s something scary even in the name of this part of the worldwide web. The darknet is a haven for various types of criminals, and for most people, it’s associated only with some illegal activity, such as drug sales, weapon trade, or cybercrimes.
The darknet (or dark web) is not indexed by search engines and can only be accessed through specific software or configurations. This means you can’t find darknet websites on Google or other popular search engines. This anonymity and untraceability really make it a haven for various types of criminals, but they aren’t the only people there.
Who and why uses the darknet?
The darknet is used by individuals and groups who seek to remain anonymous. They aren’t always outlaws, it may be political dissidents oppressed by their governments, journalists looking for anonymous communication, whistleblowers, or investigative news media that can be censored.
The dark web is not as bad as it may seem at first glance. Even the CIA launched a website there for people to have a more secure way to get in contact and report information. People often use the dark web for communication to evade government censorship and surveillance.
Ways cybercriminals hack corporations and individuals
To hack corporations and individuals, cybercriminals employ a range of techniques. This includes phishing scams, malware attacks, and social engineering. Phishing means sending fake emails or messages to deceive recipients into clicking on harmful links or disclosing sensitive information. Malware attacks involve using malicious software to infect a device to extract data or control the device. Lastly, social engineering involves psychological manipulation to coerce individuals into revealing sensitive details, such as personal information or passwords.
The stolen information can be used in different ways. For example, credit card details can be used to make fraudulent purchases or apply for loans in the victim’s name. Using someone else’s identity also allows fraudsters to carry out fraudulent activities, such as opening bank accounts, or targeting phishing scams to victims’ friends and coworkers, or using it for espionage or blackmailing.
No wonder there are quite many potential buyers for the information. The marketplaces can be found on the darknet, and the sellers there prefer crypto for payments.
Darknet and crypto
Cryptocurrency, such as Bitcoin, is a digital currency that is designed to be secure and anonymous. Cybercriminals often use crypto to receive payments for illegal activities, as it is difficult to trace transactions back to the individuals involved and can be easily transferred across borders without the need for a bank.
Credit cards and bank transfers leave a digital trail, which makes crypto preferable as a means of payment for criminals on the darknet. Yet, despite Bitcoin being the most popular payment method there, less than 0,01% of BTC transactions fall on dark web markets. The truth is it’s not even completely untraceable.
Why crypto is not a solution for criminals
You don’t have to reveal personal details when you create a crypto wallet, but all wallet transaction history will be available to track on a blockchain. According to statistics, 70% of crypto transfers to the darknet are from exchanges. This means that most of the wallets are connected to people who passed the KYC (Know Your Customer) procedure on a trading platform. Their identity is not a secret for an exchange, and law enforcement agencies only need to request it if needed.
How to trace transactions if crypto mixers were used?
Crypto mixers (aka crypto tumblers) help hide a trace. They blend multiple cryptocurrency transactions together and then send mixed coins to different addresses, making it difficult to track the original source of the funds. Thus you get a lot of small portions of crypto from very different sources. They have at least two minuses:
- Exchanges identify crypto from the darknet. Even if the smallest part of “dirty” is sent to an exchange, it will block the user’s account. This can create a problem for law-abiding users if they accidentally get some dark-web coins into their wallets. But there are services that can check your crypto and block those parts from sending anywhere directly in your wallet.
- Low volume. Many mixers have quite a low volume of transactions, making it easier to find the end beneficiary. Even if the popular tumbler with higher volumes was used, security forces, with the help of cybersecurity professionals, can track each and every cent.
The fact that crypto is used by cybercriminals does not imply that crypto is inherently bad. As with any currency, crypto can be employed for both lawful and unlawful purposes, and it presents numerous advantages, such as faster and cheaper transactions, improved security, and greater privacy.
However, it is crucial to acknowledge that crypto can facilitate criminal activities, and its anonymous nature can make it challenging for law enforcement agencies to apprehend wrongdoers. Thus, it is crucial to find a middle ground between safeguarding individual privacy and preventing illicit actions.
To sum up, the darknet is a multifaceted and frequently disputed section of the internet. Although it can serve lawful aims, it is also a refuge for cybercriminals and illegal operations. While cryptocurrency is widely employed on the darknet, this does not necessarily suggest that it is intrinsically malevolent. Striking a balance between safeguarding individual privacy and preventing unlawful activities is crucial, and devising tactics to combat cybercrime on the darknet should continue.