This is one of the 52 terms in The Language of Cybersecurity published by XML Press in 2018 and the contributor for this term is Chris Vickery.

What is it?

A part of the internet that is intentionally hidden from standard browsers. It is accessible only through specialized software with an appropriate configuration or authorization. The dark web – sometimes called darknet – provides anonymous access to the internet for people who want to keep information about themselves hidden from view. It also provides anonymous hosting.

Why is it important?

Although the dark web is primarily known to the general public as a place where illegal activity takes place, its original intent was to provide a private environment. Any business that has a need for anonymous browsing or anonymous communication may find the dark web useful. Business professionals also need to know about the dark web because it is used for illegal activities, including storage of stolen information.

Why does a business professional need to know this?

The dark web was designed for enhanced end-user privacy that is purposefully hidden from conventional search engines. It is traditionally accessible only through special software – such as Tor or I2P – that uses a technique called onion routing to preserve anonymity.

In the past, the dark web was primarily of interest to cybersecurity specialists, but increasingly, business professionals are finding it necessary to understand the dark web and to work with cybersecurity specialists to evaluate the risks and opportunities it poses. The dark web is infamous as a digital marketplace where illegal transactions occur, such as the sale of drugs, weapons, child pornography, malware, and stolen personal information such as credit card and social security numbers.

However, it is also used for legitimate, private transactions or communications. For example, the news organization ProPublica has a site on the dark web that can be accessed anonymously, enabling anonymous sources to privately and securely submit news tips.

Business professionals should also make sure that their cybersecurity specialists have the skills needed to check common dark web markets for any mention of their company and discover if any private company information is for sale.

There is a lot of misinformation associated with the dark web, both in the form of uninformed gossip as well as conspiracy theories. As with the internet itself (called clearnet to differentiate it from the rest of the internet), astute users question everything.