The Dark Web, the Deep Web, the Dark Internet. Take a much used and little understood technology, add a threatening adjective and you get hype and fearmongering. Are there real threats to your privacy? Yes. Is there something you can do about it? Absolutely.
As the new thriller NERVE (out on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital Download now) shows, millions of us are watching each other's frequent movement - online or in reality via Snapchat, Facebook Live, Twitter, Instagram, and online gaming. We are communicating at an astronomical rate, collecting information and data faster than a fibre optic connection. As NERVE exemplifies, the dangers are around every day, not just on the Dark Web.
The Onion Router (TOR), which is used to access the `Dark web'; originally developed by the US Navy to protect intelligence communications online. The US government have continued (https://pando.com/2014/07/16/tor-spooks/) to fund TOR. It's important to bear that in mind when the media coverage becomes apocalyptic.
This technology provides a website owner with greater anonymity than the `conventional' web, though this has been broken in the past (http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/10/03/silk-road-ross-william-ulbricht_n_4034745.html). Merchants offer goods and services ranging from narcotics to hacked social media credentials to botnet services.
One of the most likely threats to you is some form of privacy violation. Cyber criminals traffic in credit card details, stolen social media accounts and control of your computer. Once there has been a breach, little can be done. However, there are preventative measures that you can take.
Use a Password Manager
We all have far too many online accounts sharing the same password. If one of these accounts is compromised, the password may be shared online compromising your other accounts. A password manager lets you generate unique and random passwords for every site, and stores them in an encrypted file. All you need to remember is one master password. If any websites you use get compromised your other accounts are safe.
Enable Two-Factor Authentication
When you use a debit or credit card in a shop you need both `something you own' and `something you know', namely the credit card and the PIN number. Yet most people only use a password, which is `something you know' to log in online. Two-factor authentication is becoming more widely available with a lot of web services. This can either send a code to your phone when logging in at a new computer, or ask you to manually approve any new login requests.
Discover What Advertisers Know About You
The above two measures concern securing your social media accounts. The next looks at what you share during normal activity. Panopticlick (https://panopticlick.eff.org) is an Electronic Frontier Foundation research project. It offers a free online too to investigate what your browser tells a server when it requests a website. In addition, they offer a browser extension, Privacy Badger (https://www.eff.org/privacybadger) which prevents your browser from loading any trackers they've identified as invasive.
As NERVE constantly questions its audience, "are you a Watcher or a Player?" Whichever you are, you are entering into a potentially dangerous alternate reality when surfing the web. Fortunately, there are a range of counter measures to protect yourself. Not least is restricting the amount of personal content you make available online.