Over the years the computer systems and applications have undergone revolutionary changes. They have brought us a myriad of benefits and uses. But on the flip side, they have made us vulnerable to various cyber crimes and illegal activities which are facilitated by the Internet.
One such activity is hacking.
What is hacking?
Security hacking entails a breach of defenses and exploitation of weaknesses of a network or a computer system. Hacking may be done for various reasons such as profits, collecting data, recreation, etc. Hacking is not always illegal.
It can be classified according to its legal status:
White Hat hacking:
It is also known as ethical hacking. This type of hacking is done to enter a company’s own security system; for performing vulnerability or penetration tests; or while working for a security company that makes security software.
Black Hat hacking:
This is illegal hacking that is done for the purpose of personal profits.
Grey Hat hacking:
This type of hacking is done to notify the administrator about a defect in the system. As long as the results of the hacking are shared by the authorized recipient it is legal. But many a time, hackers publish the result to the world. This makes the hacking illegal.
Hackers look for operating systems that provide them complete anonymity.
Some of the popular OS used by them are:
1. Kali Linux:
It is one of the most popular OS used by hackers because of its versatility and associated features. This operating system is Debian derived and is designed for penetration testing and digital forensics. It provides its users bootable USB drive or CD drive making it appropriate for a forensic job. Its popularity can also be attributed to its compatibility with some Android devices through a NetHunter. Hacking becomes easy using this OS because it has over 300 pre-installed tools. You can also download other tools easily.
Kali Linux also updates its tools and is available for different platforms such as VMware, ARM, etc. It is pre-installed with the best security tools such as Hydra (login cracker), Nmap (port analyzer), Wireshark (data pocket analyzer), John the Ripper (password cracking tool), etc.
2. Parrot Security OS:
It is a GNU/LINUX distribution based on Debian. It is also focused on security. It is intended for penetration testing, vulnerability assessment, computer forensics and anonymous web browsing.
It is a penetration test and security assessment oriented Ubuntu-based Linux distribution. It is designed for ethical hacking and security testing.
Besides these, there are numerous other operating systems that hackers are using extensively to hack into your data.
Another avenue that is being used for hacking is the Dark Web.
Let us now see what Tor and the Dark Web are:
Each device connected to the Internet has a unique IP (Internet Protocol) address. The IP address enables locating the Internet user.
However, it is essential to maintain anonymity in many cases. For instance, in Government departments, defense services, etc. This is when Tor (The Onion Router) was developed by the United States Naval Research Laboratory employees.
Although Tor could achieve the purpose it was created for, it also led to certain internet based malpractices. It aided the development of the Dark Web.
What is Dark Web?
The Dark Web is a collection of numerous websites that hide their IP address through I2P(Invisible Internet Project) or Tor(The Onion Router). It is the World Wide Web content that exists on dark nets and overlay networks on the internet. However, in order to access them, specific software, authorization or configuration is required.
The Dark Web has been infamously used in areas such as black market, drug sales, and child pornography. But it also enables anonymous whistleblowing protecting its users from censorship and surveillance.
A reputed news organization 60 Minutes describes the Dark Web as “a vast, secret, cyber underworld” that accounts for 90% of the Internet.
If we try to understand the Dark Web, we see that first of all it is not 90% of the Internet. Secondly, the collection of sites in the Dark Web can be accessed by anyone. So, there is no secrecy. The only thing that is a secret is the IP address of the servers that run them. Hence, we see that the only thing that cannot be traced is the entity responsible for hosting the site.
In fact, it is Deep Web that is 90% of the Internet. Deep Web pertains to a collection of all sites on the Web that are not reachable by a search engine. Although the Deep Web includes the Dark Web, it also includes registration requiring web forums, dynamically created pages, etc.
The two softwares that help maintain anonymity in the Dark Web are:
Tor (The Onion Ring): It is a free software that can be used for anonymous communication. It directs the Internet traffic through a free worldwide volunteer overlay network that comprises over seven thousand relays. This enables concealing the user’s location and usage from anyone conducting a network surveillance. Tor makes it difficult to trace the user’s Internet activities such as visits to websites, online posts, instant messages, etc.
I2P (Invisible Internet Project):
It is a Garlic routing through overlay network and darknet through which messages can be sent anonymously in a secure manner. It is implemented in a free and open source software called the I2P router.
Of these two, Tor is the more popular host for Dark Web.
Let us see how the hosts maintain the anonymity:
Either of the tools Tor or I2P used, encrypt the web traffic in layers.
It is then bounced through randomly chosen computers around the world.
Each computer eliminates a single layer of encryption before passing the data to the next part of the network.
This ensures that no one can match the traffic’s origin from its destination.
DarK Web has been misused for numerous illegal activities.
Some of them are:
Drug trafficking has become easy due to the availability of the Dark Web. Silk Road, a site that is not functional anymore, is a well known online drug peddling site.
Illegal trade of arms and ammunition:
Dark Web is used for illegal trade of firearms, ammunition, guns, etc. across different countries in the world. The result of this being the spread of terrorism.
Videos of child pornography are becoming easily accessible on the Internet due to the Dark Web.
Creating fake documents:
Another area where the Dark Web is being extensively used is in the creation of fake documents such as Ids, passports, credit cards, currency, etc.
Helps hackers maintain anonymity:
If hackers use Tor or I2P, they can hack anonymously.
There are numerous other means that have been adopted by users of the Dark Web for unscrupulous activities. They have also devised a payment mode that is anonymous. In all transactions on the Dark Web, Bitcoins are used.
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What are Bitcoins?
Bitcoins are a form of virtual currency. They are known as Decentralized Cryptocurrency. It helps maintain anonymity in any Dark Web transaction. The users don’t need to use their credit card, Paypal or any other standard payment methods.
Bitcoins are not illegal. They are used for making online purchases in many countries.
However, the Dark Web is not meant only for illegal applications. There are certain useful applications available on it as well.
Some of them are:
It is a social networking site like Facebook. It is far more secure than Facebook due to the fact that it uses an anonymous host.
Readers against DRM:
It is a site that provides free books to readers.
Besides these, it is extensively employed by Government agencies and in defense.
It also helps you protect your site from the attack of hackers as your IP is anonymous.
How can illegal hacking harm you?
Hacking can be writing spyware or viruses into the system or breaking into networks of large corporations, banks, etc. Once they have an illegal access to the network, they seek confidential information. They also download software, files, corporate and private information, etc. Sometimes they change settings on the network or install software.
As is apparent, there is a need to protect your data from hackers.
There are certain measures you can take for it:
Back up your site
Change your password frequently
Monitor your site regularly
Maintain your software up to date
Keep your local hard drive free from viruses and Trojan horses
Use public Wi-fi cautiously
Various operating systems and the Dark Web had been created with the security perspective. But, unfortunately, they are being misused. We are all vulnerable to attacks by hackers or other illegal activities. Hence, it is in our best interests to follow all the steps to secure our networks and systems.