It’s Dark Out There

The darknet is very useful, but with the IoT the risk of misuse will rise significantly.

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A while back, probably a year or so now, there was a blip on the radar screen about something called the “dark Internet.” I had pigeon holed that for later and frankly, just forgot about it. But a recent conversation I had with one of my SMEs circled around to that. So I though I’s see how the current scene has evolved, especially in light of the evolving IoT/E.

There has always been an underground – and for just about everything. In my youth, before the Internet, I used to love the British underground music scene. Then there is pirate radio, medications, medical services. If you go back a couple of hundred years, there was the Underground Railroad used to ferry slaves to freedom

Today the darknet is used by human rights activists, journalists, the military, and law enforcement. Much of this is the good side of the darknet, without which the side of right may go unheard or punished. It serves to stand against injustice, bad rules, and regulations, unfair practices, and dozens of other valuable causes.

Therefore, I am a fan of the underground. But…there is a dark side to the darknet. For good or bad, it allows one to operate in total anonymity, without being tracked. On the bad side, surfers can access websites that sell drugs, weapons and they can even hire assassins. One such black-market site, Silk Road, got attention last fall after a crackdown by the FBI. Imagine the implications if this has access to the autonomous interconnect of the IoT/E.

And the process is remarkably simple. All one has to do is find an alternate browser such as Tor, short for “The Onion Router” (which, by the way, was developed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory as a way to protect the communications of the U.S. military). What Tor does is to reroute your computer through a series of other computers and bounces around anonymously until it reaches a destination. Say I am in Denver, (I’m really not but that is where Tor says I am as I write this). My traffic was routed through Germany, Sweden, and Russia. You think I’m in Denver, but I could be in Australia. What it looks like to the website I’m visiting is that I am in Russia.

So imagine how easy it is for malfeasants to do that too!

The scary part is that no one really knows the extent of it. That makes potential security risk extremely dangerous. Today, the Internet isn’t nearly as autonomous as it will be when it becomes the IoT/E. With billions and billions of autonomous devices hanging on the IoT/E, the ability of the darknet to cause havoc is multiplied by orders of magnitude and hackers can have us chasing our tails.

On top of that, these networks are so cloaked with encryption and anonymity that it is virtually impossible to find them, even if we can relay back to the originator.

So, anybody got any ideas? Ping me and let’s talk.


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  • Jayna Sheats

    The situation has echoes of the “there is no privacy anymore” assertion of Mr. Zuckerberg (and no doubt others). Human practices have to keep pace with our technology. (In the case of privacy solutions are easier to imagine than in the case of the dark Internet, in my opinion).

    I would say that those whose task is enforcing laws which people might violate with the dark Internet simply have to look at other tools. You can circulate information endlessly, but at some point you have to actually do something, and that can be addressed in many ways.

    A few years ago, someone had the idea that a communication could be kept secret by putting a wax seal on a paper envelope, using a pattern that was impossible to duplicate in a lifetime… sounds familiar, no? We just have to think a little more creatively about what we should be doing, and then what we can do.