The Dangers of the Internet

Posted On: November 13, 2017

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The internet is like a massive iceberg. Millions of web pages and servers running 24 hours, seven days a week. Most of us just see the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface is the Deep Web, which accounts for approximately 90 percent of websites.

According to PC Advisor, the term “Deep Web” refers to all Web pages that that are unidentifiable by mainstream search engines.

Google and Yahoo, for instance can only see the tip of the internet iceberg.

New technology such as encryption and the anonymization browser software, TOR, now makes it possible for anyone to dive deeper, below the surface-skimming activities of Google and Yahoo.

TOR is a service originally developed by the United States Naval Research Laboratory and is an acronym for the original software project that was known as The Onion Browser. You will often see an onion as a symbol for TOR. Now you know why.

Think of TOR as a Web browser like Google Chrome or Firefox, but it is a deep diver. The main difference is that, instead of taking the most direct route between your computer and the deep parts of the Web, the TOR browser uses a random path of encrypted servers, also known as “nodes.” This allows users to connect to the Deep Web without fear of their actions being tracked or their browser history being exposed. Sites on the Deep also use TOR to remain anonymous, meaning you won’t be able to find out who’s running them or where they’re being hosted.

And it is here, under the cloak of anonymity, you will find a section of the Deep Web called “the Dark Net”.

The Dark Net

The Dark Net refers to an area within the Deep Net that houses sites with criminal intent or illegal content, and “trading” sites where users can purchase illicit goods or services.

For instance the Dark Net is used for activity such as illegal trade in drugs and arms, forums, and media exchange for paedophiles and terrorists.

PIC: According to Jamie Dimon, CEO, JP Morgan: “Bitcoin is a fraud that will ultimately blow up”

Within the Dark Net much of the trade is done in “cryptocurrencies” such as Bitcoin. It helps avoid the detection that would come with the use of traditional banks and currencies such as the US Dollar.

So money-laundering, illegal trading and shady deals become easier and undetectable. Bitcoin is thus the online currency of choice of criminals.

According to the boss of America’s biggest bank, JP Morgan Bitcoin is a fraud that will ultimately blow up.

CEO Jamie Dimon said the digital currency was only fit for use by drug dealers, murderers and people living in places such as North Korea.

Speaking at a conference in New York, Dimon said he would fire “in a second” anyone at the investment bank found to be trading in bitcoin.

He added: “The currency isn’t going to work. You can’t have a business where people can invent a currency out of thin air and think that people who are buying it are really smart.”

The internet should be used with caution and common sense

Let’s return to the surface, where most of us conduct our online activities. According to cybersecurity experts Kaspersky, here are some of the traps faced by people when using the internet:

  • If you do on-line banking, be careful when entering your bank’s URL. If you end up in an imposter website then you could become a victim of cyber-theft;
  • If you shop on-line make sure you are on a genuine site, otherwise you could be giving cybercriminals access to your credit card details;
  • Make sure your passwords are strong, otherwise hackers could steal your online identity;
  • If you use Facebook, use some discretion when adding friends. Let’s face it, in life family are all-important and the number of close friends can be counted on one hand. Follow this rule and you should have no more than twenty real Facebook friends. If you don’t, then it is likely you are inviting malware, spivs or identity thieves into your inner circle;
  • Always be at least a little suspicious when you go online. Scepticism is a healthy thing. Avoid unusual ads and links from unknown email or text senders;
  • Don’t be too social on the internet. Posting personal information leaves you wide open for all kinds of repercussion, even from your family and friends; and
  • If you are a parent, make sure you know where your kids are going online, and educate them about proper online etiquette, cyberbullying and the ever-changing challenges of online life.

In short, the internet and social media can be shady places. Similar to a public bar – where all kinds of characters hang out – loudmouths, hustlers, criminals, spivs and predators.

Smart people avoid such places, preferring secure, quiet and reputable social meeting places, preferring the company of family and close friends who they can trust.

Fake News! Don’t be fooled!

There is nothing new in fake news. It is old news. Governments have been using fake news propaganda for centuries to destabilise opposition forces, especially during times of war.

However, the internet has now made the spreading of fake news easier to a point where it is difficult to determine fake news from real news, and it is hard to tell “click-bait” news from advertising.

Add to this internet trolls who take perverse satisfaction from posting inflammatory or provocative messages in online communities, inciting discontent and negativity.

The scourge of fake news has now reached a point where in America – the land of free speech – people are evenly split over the need to regulate social media platforms such as Facebook and Twitter.

At a recent hearing of the US Senate intelligence committee, it was revealed how Russia “conducted an information operation intended to divide the US society along issues such as race, race and second amendment rights.”

It was revealed that 80,000 Russian-backed posts on Facebook reached 126 million Americans during the 2016 presidential campaign, with a further 120,000 similar posts on Instagram and that up to 15% of Twitter accounts were “fake or automated”.

At the hearing, an executive for Facebook conceded that starting from October 2016, just before the election, the Russian posts on Instagram reached an additional 16 million Americans.

Once again, information on the internet, and particularly on social media should always be treated with a healthy amount of scepticism.

If anything, news on social media is always worthy of further investigation. Propagating fake news by sharing with others is just as likely to have negative outcomes not only for the truth, but also for those stupid enough to be sharing it.