The dark web goes corporate

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The “dark web” is a phrase strikes an ominous tone, conveying an impression of a marketplace where anything is for sale: hacking tools, weapons, drugs, child pornography, even freelance assassination services. And according to experts we spoke to, all of that’s still true. But something has changed in the way the dark web does business. If there was a time when venturing online to buy these illegal items was like taking your life in your hands in a dark alley, today the experience in quite different.

Take drugs, just as an example category. “The best analogy I can give for the expanse of dark web drug offerings is that it would be like walking into a major supermarket for the first time having only ever shopped at a corner store,” says Emily Wilson, director of analysis at Terbium Labs. “Almost anything you want is available from a huge host of vendors—all of whom are competing to assure buyers that their product is the freshest, purest, safest, most readily assured high available. People like to compare and contrast their experiences in detailed write-ups, and the vendors are incentivized to develop loyalty: ‘Check out this freebie of my new product,’ or ‘Hey, sorry about the slow shipping—I threw in a little extra for you.'”

And it’s not just drugs where the dark web has gone corporate. It’s happening across the board—and what most of the experts we spoke to wanted to talk about was especially the various hacking and shadowy technology services available. In hearing the details, it’s hard to avoid the realization that the various criminals on the dark web are taking their cues from the practices of corporate IT.

ransomware as a service John Shier, Senior Security Expert at Sophos

This graphic design should be familiar to anyone who’s bought software online.

And just as with corporate IT, the illicit offerings from the dark web span from code that buyers have to implement themselves to turnkey solutions and consulting services.