The DarkNet and its role in online piracy

Thanks to the highly publicized sentencing of Ross Ulbricht, founder of the online blackmarket place – Silk Road, the general awareness of the DarkNet is increasing. Yet, the importance of the DarkNet to our customers isn’t about supply of illegal drugs or fake passports; it is its growing role in evolving online piracy.

What’s what?
Before diving into the detail of the emerging trends that we’re seeing, let’s start by putting things into context.

Irdeto_Persepctive_Internet_SectionsThe web can be broken down into 3 sections. There’s the Internet that we all know and love. In cyber circles this is often referred to as the Clearnet or Surface web. And there’s the Deepweb. This is an overarching term for all websites that have intentionally requested not to be indexed and therefore can’t be found using conventional search engines. This doesn’t have to equate to illegal sites. It also includes sites such as academic resources or even some intranets. And finally there’s the DarkNet interchangeably called the Darkweb. This is a hidden part of the Deepweb. The difference being that here the network of sites is anonymous and can only be accessed by using specific software, such as TOR (The Onion Router) or I2P (Invisible Internet Project).

How does it work?
The secretive nature of the DarkNet is achieved, in part, by relaying the internet traffic through multiple proxies worldwide to break the direct link of who’s doing the communication. So where’s the link to online piracy?

Due to its anonymity, the DarkNet naturally attracts criminal activity. The many virtual markets thrive on transacting unlawful business, using cryptocurrencies to purchase the goods or services. Beyond the sale of the obvious: drugs, weapons, assassination services, hacking services, identities, credit card information and child pornography, we are witnessing a growing demand for customer databases – supplying compromised account credentials for subscription pay-TV services. Once the account credentials are bought at a wholesale rate in the DarkNet they are sold for maximum profit to be used in the Clearnet.

Why does it matter?
It’s these compromised details which is one of the reasons why companies look to Irdeto to help protect their brand and revenue streams against ever increasing reach of online piracy.

During one investigation the Irdeto Cyberservices team found that compromised account details for over 10 major operators: OTT, satellite and cable were for sale. Also available in forums were recommended hacking techniques.

Monitoring, detecting and investigating such activity in the DarkNet require specialized expertise. Many Clearnet tools and techniques are not transferable. A different approach is needed in the shadowy depths of the DarkNet. Not everyone has these capabilities.

In my next blog I’ll examine the impact the DarkNet has for pay-TV operators in more detail.

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