Illegal drugs and dodgy pics? Nah. Half the dark web is perfectly legal

Thrill-seekers look elsewhere: Most of the criminal bits are about financial crimes

Despite its reputation, less than half of the sites on the dark web are illegal, according to a new study by security intelligence outfit Intelliagg.

On the 48 per cent of the dark web which crosses the line, the unlawful content is mostly related to financial crime rather than drugs or sexual perversion, contrary to tabloid rumours.

Drugs featured on four per cent of the surveyed sites, whereas weapons and pornography came up at less than two per cent collectively.

Leaked data (28 per cent) and financial fraud (12 per cent) are far more commonplace on the dark web, according to Intelliagg. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the vast majority of information is in English (76 per cent). German and Chinese are next at four per cent and 3.7 per cent respectively.

The research also exposed commercial risks, such as employees of banks advertising services, including laundering money, to interested bidders. This is a reoccurring problem that has strong links to organised crime rings.

Intelliagg monitors, collects and aggregates intelligence about organisations and individuals that could pose a threat to their clients. The firm teamed up with Darksum, another cyber intelligence outfit, in a report that aims to map the dark web and offers insights into this poorly understood realm of cyberspace.

The biggest differences between the internet and the dark web lie in anonymity and size. The dark web is much smaller than commonly thought; a mere 30,000 sites, according to Intelliagg’s estimate.

By its very nature, the dark web depends on its anonymity. Users are unidentifiable and untraceable, websites are hard to find, unless you’re in the know, and sites on the dark web cannot be reached without the use of specialized software.

A spokesman from Intelliagg explained: “The dark web is renowned for illicit and illegal trade, unmonitored and anonymous. Not any more. We have successfully penetrated into the darkest parts using specialist software and our expertise. We are now using this information to protect companies, governments and individuals.”

Intelliagg and Darksum plan to monitor the evolution of the dark net regularly, before producing a regular series of reports on trends and developments. The two firms' initial report can be found here (registration required). ®

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