(KMSP) - When most people call up their browsers, they are typically only accessing 16 percent of the Internet. Lurking behind the silly cat videos, social media and all that is indexed and searchable with Google and Yahoo! is what some compare to the wild west, but more commonly known as the Dark Net. Here web users can find a global village of hackers, scientists, and government black ops. It's a black market for drugs, guns, fake passports and even human trafficking.
WHAT’S ON THE DARK NET
Mark Lanterman, a former police detective turned computer forensic specialist, is blown away by what he finds on the Dark Net. It's where stolen credit card numbers from Target ended up, where someone can buy stolen iPhones at bargain prices and handguns from a distributor who claims to be in the Midwest. Illegal drugs are also up for sale. Some sites look like the Amazon of narcotics, bragging about how they've cut out the middle man, offering "the best quality product at competitive prices," delivered right to your door.
"The Dark Net is all about customer service because they want your repeat business," said Lanterman. Payment is always in the cyber currency bitcoin which is virtually untraceable and it's easy to see why given some of the services for sale.
Dark Net users can find a 'rent-a-hacker' for business espionage, or a personal vendetta, who promises to "ruin someone financially or get them arrested." A hitman is also available, there are three contract killers will do the job in Europe, USA, and Canada. The only rules are: "no kids under 16 and no top 10 politicians."
Additionally, U.S. citizenship is for sale, with passports and social security cards. One site even claims to have an insider at the State Department, who will provide someone with a real U.S. passport under an assumed name for $800. And the Dark Net is also finding its way into homes and automobiles. Earlier this year, Wired magazine showed how they could remotely hack a Jeep Cherokee through a cellular connection to its entertainment system, even killing the engine on a busy highway.
Via the Dark Net, Lanterman showed the Fox 9 Investigators how a hacker can access a home video camera, how it provides a backdoor into a hospital's ventilation system, or 7,000 wind turbines. Almost all without passwords, they could be shut down, in a click.
"Anything connected to the internet is vulnerable because if you can connect to them, an attacker can as well," said Lanterman.
CRIMINALS MOVING AS FAST AS INVESTIGATORS
"The criminals know it's there. They're innovating as fast as we are," said Dr. Doug Maughan who directs the cyber security division for the Department of Homeland Security. "It's a cat and mouse game.
Sites the Fox 9 Investigators were looking at have been shut down so unless someone knows where to look, it's like a needle in a field of haystacks, which is why an ISIS recruitment site can be found on the Dark Net too.
PROF. AT UNIVERSITY OF MINNESOTA STUDYING DARK NET
Tor, is the browser, developed by the U.S. government used to connect to the Dark Net, also referred to as the Onion Network. It operates through a network of thousands of encrypted relay servers all over the planet. Each relays, independently and simultaneously, a decrypting part of the message. This makes it virtually impossible to trace.
University of Minnesota computer science professor Nicholas Hopper is trying to discover just how anonymous Tor network may be.
"The research that I do is understanding how to help people browse the web and prevent them from being tracked and their data collected and used in a way they don't want used,” said Hopper.
He also told the Fox 9 Investigators, Facebook is even on the Dark Web, running a Tor hidden service. Hopper's research is funded by a $1.4 million National Science Foundation. You can bet the NSA is interested too, but the professor believes Tor may even be beyond the government's ability to track.