The Dark Web Trends About to Have Real-World Consequences

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For the average internet user, the dark web represents little more than a mysterious bogeyman. It’s a thing they hear about in scary commercials urging them to purchase credit monitoring services or something that pops up from time to time in their Facebook feed whenever some criminal gets caught purchasing illicit firearms online. It’s a nebulous concept to most, and something easily dismissed as a problem for someone else to consider.

For that reason, most people don’t realize the true nature of the dark web, and how dangerous and downright strange it can be. After all, it isn’t just drugs and stolen user passwords that trade hands there — there’s quite a bit more at play, and it’s only getting worse. In fact, there is a range of recent trends taking shape on the dark web that are bound to enter the public consciousness (in a bad way) in the very near future. So nobody will be able to feign surprise when it happens, here’s what they are.

Is There a Doctor in the House?

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The first alarming dark web trend that’s moving to the fore right now has quite a bit to do with the massive and growing opioid crisis that’s playing out in cities all over the United States as we speak. That crisis has forced a response that is slowly tightening controls on who can get their hands on opioid-based medications, and under what circumstances. As history has shown us, however, if you make it hard to get an addictive product, a black market is sure to spring up to meet the demand. On the dark web, that’s what appears to be happening.

According to research from internet security firm Carbon Black, healthcare organizations are now under nearly constant cyber attack — and doctor’s credentials are selling on the dark web like hotcakes. That means the next chapter of the opioid crisis will likely feature forged prescriptions and a booming market for the resulting pills. Unlike the legitimate prescriptions that sparked the start of the crisis, there’s a good chance that these fraudulent ones will prove much harder to control and lead to more misery for the addicted masses.

A Looming Threat to the Enterprise

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Another big trend that’s taking hold in the dark web is a sharp uptick in the availability of malware that’s custom-built to attack specific businesses. What’s happening, according to the latest research, is that cybercriminals have realized that it’s more profitable to use the enterprise credentials they steal to create their own business-specific malware. Then, instead of selling a password for a pittance, they can sell a pre-planned cyberattack for a small fortune. It’s not just a problem for the businesses in the crosshairs, either. The top targets include major banks, eCommerce operations, and educational institutions, so if you’re involved with any of those sectors (so, basically everyone), prepare for the worst.

The Robocallers Strike Back

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If you have a phone (and who doesn’t?), you may have noticed that you’re unable to get through ten minutes of your day without getting an unsolicited robocall. It’s gotten so bad that even FCC chairman Ajit Pai was finally forced to do some regulating to try and stem the tide. Still, it’s not as though the scammers behind the torrent of robocalls are going to close up shop and go home. Instead, it looks like they’re already turning to the dark web for ways to undermine the methods that will be used against them.

The most obvious sign of it was the sale of user data taken from caller identity app Truecaller this May. That comes on the heels of reports of caller ID spoofing tools proliferating on the dark web, and automated social-engineering-as-a-service becoming a hot item as well. The bottom line seems to be that be the time phone companies get around to dealing with the robocall scourge, the scammers responsible may have all of the ammo they need to circumvent whatever new measures are put in place.

A Light in the Dark Web

Photo: Gorodenkoff / Adobe Stock

The good news here, if there is any, is that authorities around the world are stepping up efforts to police the dark web as it continues to pose a threat in multiple ways. The latest big splash was the shuttering of the dark web information site DeepDotWeb, which had been a gateway from the normal internet into the deepest corners of the dark web. The problem, though, is that the dark web is something of a hydra — and there’s already evidence that the impact of such enforcement is negligible at best.

The bottom line is that the dark web poses problems that never seem to end. Even those whose exposure has thus far been limited to some blaring headlines and some vague marketing scare tactics could soon be feeling its’ effects. As they say, however, to be forewarned is to be forearmed. Consider yourself on notice.

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