One of the more sinister areas of study fans of the J K Rowling books saw the pupils of Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry undertaking was Professor Snape’s ‘Defence Against the Dark Arts’.
It might seem fanciful when you’re watching Harry Potter and pals on the big screen, but there are disturbing parallels to an aspect of real life, where getting yourself an education is the best form of defence.
There are some things in life we’d rather not know. Sometimes having your head in the sand is actually a good thing. If you worried about everything you can’t control you could easily drive yourself to distraction. So, we push some things to the back of our minds and carry on functioning.
But if you knew more about the ‘Dark Web’ you would be concerned and you would understand better why some of the advice we regularly repeat about online safety and security is so vital.
As an issue it reared its head recently when it was thought that tens of millions of data files from credit reference agency Experian were being sold for the first time online. Experian is quite confident not that this is not its data, or at least that it’s not recent, but there have been credit agency data break-ins and the information they have on you is incredible. Imagine that in the hands of the wrong person.
What is the Dark Web?
The Dark Web is a subset of the Deep Web. Confused? Fear not. Let’s step back.
The Deep Web is the vast majority of the internet. It’s the information that’s online in one form or another but which is not indexable by the search engines. It’s the information in private databases, company intranets, member only sites and forums, etc. It’s there, it makes up 96 per cent of the internet, but you can’t just Google it or ‘surf’ around it.
The Dark Web is part of this, but it’s a part like the Wild West. If you go there you’d better be very sure of what you’re doing. The very unsavoury denizens of the net live there and they know very well how to track, hack, tick and defraud you if you are not totally savvy to internet security and thorough privacy precautions. That is not an exaggeration. The good news is that to truly go there, you would need special software; you’re not going to stumble carelessly in to the true Dark Web.
Why do I need to care?
If you’re not going to go there, it’s not your problem, right? Well it is the place where all of the world’s online crime can be found. This is your problem for a couple of reasons:
- If your account credentials get hacked (bank account, credit rating files, even your email login) this is where they get sold to people who will try to access your accounts. The amount of information they can buy with your private and personal details contained in it is terrifying. Millions of records can be obtained for just a couple of hundred dollars.
- If your staff know more about IT than you do and are accessing the Dark Web through your networks, on your computers, you have a really, really serious and dangerous situation. Not just because they’re putting your entire business network and data at risk, but because the authorities are watching this underground world closely and tracking those who use it wherever they can. Could you prove who in your company was using it – and that you’re not responsible?
It’s not just paranoia. Even Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg has been photographed with the camera and microphone covered on his computer. Why? Because he is well aware of what’s possible if someone comes looking for ways into your life or your business.
Making sure your networks are properly set up and managed and that your staff have both proper log-in credentials and are educated against the risks makes a huge difference to your exposure to such things. You’ve made a great start by reading to the end of this piece, because now you’re better informed about the Dark Web and what it could mean to you. You’re on the way to an A grade from Severus Snape.