Dark Web
January 14, 2024

Unraveling the Web: The Evolving Landscape of Cybercrime in the Digital Age

1. Introduction

The Internet is widely known as the pinnacle of endless creativity and innovation. It is so big and powerful that for many people around the globe is a complete substitute for life. The Internet gave us access literally to everything, but at the same time, it gave everything access to us. As the Internet and mobile technologies advance, the very notion of dividing reality and virtual reality becomes darker, sometimes in creative ways. The Internet, also known as the World Wide Web, has become a valuable tool for quality and affordable education, organization, and participation in a transparent and meaningful society.

 

However, the real question is “How big actually the Internet is”? One certain answer is that is much bigger than anyone thinks. And how do you even estimate the size of the Internet? Up to this day, no one has ever managed to fully explore the depths of the World Wide Web. But there are a few ways to approach it. One way to answer the previous questions is by considering the total amount of data held by the top four online service providers, i.e., Google, Amazon, Facebook, and Microsoft. 

 

According to reports, these tech goliaths store collectively at least 1200 petabytes of data. That is 1.2 billion gigabytes which is equal to 1,200,000,000,000,000,000 bytes. One question we can answer for sure is that the total worldwide Internet users reached almost 5 billion in 2021.

Figure 1.1: Number of Internet users worldwide from 2005 to 2021

 

If data is power in the digital era (and it is), then Google has the right to claim that is the most influential corporation of the modern age. It almost dominates every sector is getting into, as it has arranged, digitized, and presented more data than any other company in the history of the world. As of today, Google owns more than 90 percent of the global search market. According to reports, people make more than 2 trillion Google searches every year. That works out to more than 63 thousand searches every second, 3 million every minute, 228 million every hour, and 5 billion every day.  

 

This chapter gives an overview of the broad research with a particular focus on cybercrime and the Dark Web. Understanding what cybercrime is, the various types, and how to protect yourself from it will help to keep our society running and stay safe online. Subsequently, the chapter briefly discusses two popular Dark Web access tools (TOR browser and I2P). Specifically, the chapter covers the following: 


  • Classification of the major cybercrimes.

  • Types of cyber-attacks.

  • Evolution of cybercrime.

  • Internet’s three primary levels.

  • Dark web access tools.


2. Cybercrime 

There is a new digital dimension in our reality, which in many cases may improve people’s lives, but it leaves them vulnerable to severe threats. Cybercrime, also known as computer crime, refers to activities carried out by using electronic devices, computers, or the Internet itself. 

 

These activities aim to harm the reputation or cause mental or physical harm to the victim. In the last few years, there have been many privacy concerns regarding how cybercrime affects our daily lives. A risk report from the World Economic Forum confirmed that large organized crime and terrorist gangs are joining forces to launch massive cyber-attacks against nations and governments. The likelihood of detecting and prosecuting these gangs is less than 1 percent. The following list classifies the three major categories of cybercrime.


  • Crimes against people: This type of cybercrime aims to exploit human weaknesses, such as naivety and greed. It includes extortion, cyberstalking and harassment, credit card fraud, identity theft, human trafficking, distribution of child pornography, cannibalism, and many others. 

  • Crimes against properties: Some online crimes take place against properties, such as computers or mobile devices. This category of cybercrime includes virus transmission, cyber vandalism, copyright infringement, cyber trespass, malware infection, and many others.

  • Crimes against governments: This kind of cybercrime may significantly impact a nation’s sovereignty and stability. Cybercrimes against a government include accessing highly classified information, cyber warfare, network intrusions in crucial services and infrastructures, industrial espionage, cyber terrorism, and many others.


According to reports, in 2025, the global cybercrime damage costs will reach 10.5 trillion US dollars. The problem with cybercrime is so severe that Evan Greenberg, the head of the insurance company Chubb Limited, stated: “The next pandemic, the exposure that looks like a virus is cyber-related because it has no geographic or time bound to it”. Even worse, Warren Buffet, the billionaire titan and philanthropist, believes that cybercrime is the number one problem with mankind. He added that cyber-attacks are a much bigger threat to humanity than nuclear weapons. Buffet even believes that mass attacks in cyberspace may even constitute a threat to international security and peace. 

 

Cybercrimes are a global threat and are more rampant than ever this year. With the COVID-19 pandemic still causing problems and a fatigued workforce, the potential attack surface for cybercriminals has increased in size dramatically. Criminals and the advanced technical infrastructure they use are often based overseas, making international collaboration between agencies essential. Apart from disrupting the current generation of cybercriminals, it is of vital importance to prevent young individuals from slipping into cybercrime. Regional organized crime units as well as international law enforcement, for example, the FBI, Interpol, Europol, and the National Crime Agency (NCA-UK), must encourage young people with cyber skills to use their knowledge wisely and avoid any cyber-related illegal activities.

 

Internet-facilitated crimes continue to expand in scale and sophistication, and literally, every minute essential services, organizations, businesses, and individuals become victims of malicious attacks. Although cyber-attacks are not as tangible as traditional attacks are, they can be as impactful and devastating. Below are some critical up-to-date cybersecurity statistics and trends. 


  • The global cybersecurity market is estimated to reach 170.4 billion US dollars in 2022 (Contu et al., 2018).

  • Cyber-related crimes are up 600 percent due to the COVID-19 pandemic (Lowry, 2020).

  • Human error is responsible for 95 percent of cybersecurity breaches (Hourihan, 2020).

  • 34 percent of businesses hit with malware and ransomware need a week or more to regain access to their data (Kron, 2020).

  • A single attack costs companies of all sizes an average sum of 200,000 US dollars (Hiscox, 2019).

As it can be seen, taking cybersecurity seriously is of vital importance. Nowadays, data has become the most valuable asset in the world, and applying proper cybersecurity techniques may protect us from severe damage. It is predicted that the fast-paced changes in technology will cause a dramatic increase in cyberattacks. The following section describes the various types of cyberattacks as well as how cybercrime evolved throughout the years.

 

Digitalization is no longer just a part of a 1930s science-fiction movie. It is the past, present, and future of humankind. The digital transformation has changed emphatically almost every aspect of our lives, but simultaneously, it brought many drawbacks. Cyber-attacks have moved beyond simply harming computers, networks, and systems. Cybercriminals can attack literally anything with an electronic pulse or a heartbeat, for example, people, vehicles, fridges, railways, drones, coffee machines, military facilities, planes, baby monitors, hoovers, power grids, nuclear facilities, and many more. 

 

It is not easy at all to identify, detect, and prosecute cybercriminals. This is because they anonymously use the Internet along with the support of cross-border criminal gangs. Not only does the Web allow people to be targeted from different locations, but the scale of harm done can be extraordinary. Cybercriminals can target thousands of people and organizations at the same time. 

 

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more of people’s everyday activities have taken place remotely, especially at home. Some of these activities include online education, virtual work, digital entertainment, and online shopping. However, this situation has increased the risk of attacks through the Internet. The availability of cyberspaces to the public and private sectors has allowed cyber-attacks to become an everyday occurrence. It is thus crucial for mental health services to know about the possible effects of cyber-attacks and most importantly the patients’ risks. 

 

A cyber-attack refers to an action where a threat actor (attacker), or a group of threat actors, attacks a computerized information system to steal, manipulate, alter, or destroy confidential data. Because of the Internet’s global existence, hackers can be physically positioned anywhere in the world and still cause harm with relative ease. While an attacker can use various techniques to penetrate a system, most cyber-attacks rely on similar methods. Below is a table of the most common types of cyber-attacks.

In conclusion, the landscape of cybercrime and cyber-attacks is a constantly shifting battleground where the forces of innovation and malevolence collide. From the insidious rise of ransomware targeting critical infrastructure to the clandestine dealings on the dark web, the digital realm is fraught with threats. As nation-states leverage advanced capabilities for geopolitical influence and cybercriminals evolve their tactics, the need for robust cybersecurity measures has never been more critical. 

 

Understanding the multifaceted nature of cyber threats, including the human vulnerabilities exploited through social engineering, is paramount. The ongoing challenge to secure our interconnected world requires vigilance, technological prowess, and a collective commitment to stay one step ahead in this perpetual digital arms race.



Nearchos Nearchou

Nearchos Nearchou

Nearchos Nearchou is a determined person and 1st Class BSc (Hons) Computer Science and MSc Cyber Security graduate. He is a big tech-lover and spent several years exploring new innovations in the IT field. Driven by his passion for learning, he is pursuing a career in the Cyber Security world. Passionate about learning new skills and information that can be used for further personal and career development. Finally, he is the author of the book “Combating Crime On The Dark Web”.

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