Friday, 30 August 2013

The ‘Dark Web’, what is it? Does it damage business? Waseem Saddique Marketing Investigates

Did you know? Internet surfers use just three hundredths of one per cent of the internet, so where’s the rest? The answer lies in the ‘dark web’ or the ‘dark internet’, an unmonitored area in cyberspace that has become increasingly more sinister and accessible.

Waseem Saddique comments: “It may surprise the ‘average’ internet user to know that when using the Google search engine to find information the pages listed do not make up the entire internet. Think of the internet like an iceberg, the tip sits above the surface, but the bulk of the iceberg stretches miles below the surface.”

Waseem continues: “The iceberg analogy represents a perfect model of the internet; Google is simply the tip of the iceberg, whilst the rest of the internet holds deeper and darker secrets.”
The ‘dark web’ originates from software pioneered by the US Navy in 2002, designed to safeguard government communications. 

However, the Tor software system was soon adopted by savvy techies all over the world. It’s the Tor software system that has developed a reputation as the ‘dark web’, allowing internet users to surf the web completely unmonitored and anonymously.

Now, as the Government pushes for companies like Google, Facebook, Twitter and other major online companies to censor ‘harmful’ content, concerns have surfaced that such pressure to implement censorship will drive web users towards the ‘dark web’ proxy, obscuring the identity of users and the sites hosted.

The pioneers of the Tor project, a non-profit organisation whose inception took place in Walpole, Massachusetts in 2002, say that the project was establish with the intention of making anonymous web-surfing mainstream.

In an article published by the Independent, Tor project pioneers claim that ‘the numbers of users of its free software doubled between 2011 and 2012, reaching around 600,000 people each year – and, though the numbers are hard to trust, its data suggests there are 15,715 unique daily users in Britain. But as whole companies could be operating from one address, calculating the true usage is impossible.’

How does Tor work?
Tor, short for ‘The Onion Router’ because of its layer like complexities, functions by directing web traffic across a series of nodes – aka onion routes – adding layers of encrypted code at various intervals. The result is that browsers and online users, as well as the individuals hosting the websites it features, remain untraceable by authorities.

It is Tor software that kept the identity of ‘Prism’ whistle-blower, Edward Snowden, anonymous before he publically revealed details of the USA’s ‘secret’ surveillance system.

How does it damage business?
Waseem Saddique comments: “Reputation management becomes increasingly difficult as a result of the ‘dark web’, a proportion of companies in particular industry sectors have been subjected to a barrage of negative publicity as a result of dark web activity.”

As the ‘dark web’ is made up of non-indexable content and is 500 times larger than the ‘web surface’, the content stored is so much more difficult to trace and access. Businesses under attack from negative publicity posted through the ‘dark web’ will find it virtually impossible to trace the perpetrator and even if they do locate them the damage may already be irreparable.     

The other sinister aspect of the ‘dark web’ is that it allows for complete anonymity, which provides people with the opportunity to post slanderous and defamatory comments about particular businesses all over the web, whether via blog, social media or an online forum. The ramifications of such activity could easily damage a business brand, without any means of preventing it.

The warning issued to online business owners by computer security consultants is beware and get educated about the ‘dark web’.