The dark web is often seen as a virtual back alley — a shady place where underground deals are made and criminal gangs plot their next heist. While most law-abiding citizens tend to steer clear of the dark web, the growing number of ransomware attacks and cybercriminal cases has made it far too dangerous to ignore.
According to a May report by Sophos, 59% of Malaysian firms are expected to experience ransomware attacks in the near future. Soon, business leaders may have no choice but to confront these criminals on their own turf, with the dark web being used to facilitate communications and ransomware transactions.
Despite its growing prevalence, local cybersecurity experts are worried that awareness of the dark web is still nascent among the Malaysian public. Hon Fun Ping, CEO of NetAssist (M) Sdn Bhd, estimates that seven in 10 Malaysians are unfamiliar with the dark web.
“I am in a dilemma about this. On the one hand, it is good for the public not to know about the dark web so they do not get curious and visit it unprepared, because it can be quite dangerous. If you access the dark web without sufficient knowledge, you may get compromised and become a target for criminals,” says Hon.
“On the other hand, [the public] needs to have at least a basic understanding of the dark web, because cybercriminal activities and the dark web are closely related.”
So what exactly is the dark web?
To move this conversation further, it is important to draw the distinction between the three levels of the internet — namely, the surface, deep and dark web.
The surface web, sometimes referred to as the clear net or light web, is the portion of the World Wide Web available to the general public that is searchable via standard web search engines. It encompasses what users normally refer to when they mention the internet, including household names such as Facebook, Google and Instagram, down to your friendly neighbourhood e-commerce store.