The Dark Net, a Major Threat but Also a Resource


Criminal use of, and threats from, the dark net are growing. At the same time, criminals are going darker through direct end-to-end encryption for direct communication with service buyers and potential buyers. But the dark net also has its uses.

Sponsored by threat isolation firm Bromium, Michael McGuire, senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Surrey, spent five months to March 2019 analyzing 15 leading dark net platforms. He and his team of researchers examined 70,000 dark net listings looking at commodities sold, services offered, prices, vendor responses and patterns of trading. They gained membership of three forums to observe, gather intelligence and engage in simulated transactions — the last of which effectively provided 30 interviews with dark net cybercrime vendors.

The results (PDF) show that compared to an earlier study in 2016, there has been a 20% increase in the number of listings. Taking the sale of illicit drugs out of the equation, 60% of the listings provide opportunities for direct harm to enterprises, such as network compromise, disruption, and financial loss. Fifteen percent provide opportunities for indirect harm, such as brand or reputational harm — and a further 25% could do both through the sale of counterfeit goods.

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