The darknet to some people is almost synonymous with all things illegal. Nothing could be more misrepresented, however. While indeed it helps aid anonymous engagements, assuring users of freedom and security to exercise all that pertains to them away from observation, the darknet has been grossly defined by negatively by government agencies and the like. The core intent of the deep web is to do what is ‘right’ and not to commit crimes under the blanket of anonymity. Even so, it is highly prone to abuse and many criminals have turned to it to run illegal activities away from the eyes of authorities.
One astounding case of what gives darknet a tainted reputation was revealed by Dylan Curran in an elaborate post to The Guardian news organization. Curran is a data consultant and web developer doing extensive research into spreading technical awareness and improving data etiquette. He took three weeks researching a Russian darknet forum known as FreeHacks. According to his research, it is the largest Russian run dark web platform for hackers.
As a Russian community forum, the platform operates only in the Russian language. Here, users collectively gather resources to improve on their hacking abilities. They congregate in a community of a discussion room to give advice to each other as if they were finding solutions on a progressive issue. Activities going on in the FreeHacks network are frightening. According to Curran, nothing is safe.
The site can be accessed easily like other darknet sites, requiring only the Tor browser for simple access. With the forum’s URL and Tor, anyone could access it so once you are on the forum, you are open to everyone else if you and your computer have any vulnerabilities. Little hitches could come from the rigorous registration process which asks new users to explain why they need to join the site, what they are bringing on board and what they wish to learn. Once one completes them, a vast and dense world of hacking opens up.
A Host of Hacking Materials
The homepage has several subsections, among them are informative sections such as; Hacker World News, SEO Optimization, Programing, Web Development, Humor, Hacking and Security, Private Software and Malware & Exploits. It then runs another set of sections that facilitate the actual hackings. Here, they have; Botnet (network of bots), Carding (stealing of credit cards), Electronics and Phreaking (phreaking is trying to break into someone’s network) Brutus (software for breaking passwords), and DDoS (overwhelming a server with requests to shut down). Also, they have sections for Documentation (offering driving licenses, passports and citizenships), Financial Operations, Clothing Marketplaces for clothes bought with used stolen credit cards, and a Blacklist — the official community judicial system.
Yet, it doesn’t end there. The same sections are further divided into more categories and subsections. The elaborate network set up to empower hackers and enable them to execute more efficiently by growing the users’ knowledge base has an interesting ‘mission statement.’ In it, they disown the mainstream definition of hackers. They refuse the tag of computer burglars and subtly refer to themselves as people ‘who like to program and enjoy it.’
Dylan in his expose focused on the ‘Hacking and Security’ sub forum. He found a discussion with a step by step video tutorial on how to get someone’s home address. The video was based on a tactic on reverse-querying addresses while cross-referencing them against other websites. This combines credit check sites with other websites, giving correct physical addresses. Members went on to discuss the merits and lack there, of the method and how to actually improve it. But there was an even better way altogether. One can phish on a website to grab personal location via nearby Wi-Fi access points. Then there is the rather hilarious-sounding so called ‘Grandfather Way of Hacking.’ This method works by finding out IP addresses for targeted computers. It then uses shared resources to find a physical location.
Another hacking technique posted and is considerably popular is called Social Engineering. This basically plays on the psychology of the target, making them volunteer information that helps bypass protocol. It involves masking numbers to mimic internal ones and use of malware that installs in the victim’s computer through a link that they are lured into clicking. Once set up, the malware helps the hacker collect all the information they wish to have from the computer. The forum goes on in detail explaining other masking methods.
One of the forum users claimed to be responsible for a 2016 hack on Turkey’s citizens ID database. The person was able to acquire 49.6 million IDs, names, addresses, dates of birth and parents names. According to evidence seen by Curran, the claims look legitimate. This was one of the largest hard leaks according to Curran.
The site shows a horrifying reality of the network whose aim is to bring down so called ‘Western systems’ as well as cause chaos while earning plenty of money from it. Russian authorities seem to turn a blind eye, allowing the forum to flourish for the last six years, housing 5,000 members today even. Incidentally, the country is famous for hacking rings, as it is currently under federal investigation into the hacking of the 2016 US Presidential election.