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The Dark Net: Exposing the online underworld where criminals shop

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Behind the veil of the World Wide Web is an underworld run by clandestine criminals.

The Dark Net is a dangerous black market, run by hackers and criminals.

We consulted with a computer intelligence expert along with a cybercrimes investigator. Both asked to be disguised because of the dangers of exposing these criminals.

"We are looking at an offer to sell an Army tank and rocket launcher," the computer intelligence expert told us as he trolled the site.

On it, high-powered weapons, child pornography and even your personal information can be bought and sold.

"As a law enforcement officer, we really don't want people knowing about the dark net because it makes my job more difficult," the cybercrimes investigator said.

Fake IDs, toxic drugs, illegal weapons and even stolen money can be purchased here. And it's difficult to trace because it's all underground and anonymous.

Getting on The Dark Net is not as simple as typing in a search.

"You have to know where something is in The Dark Net to find it," the computer intelligence expert said.

The Dark Net operates on what's called the Tor network -- a server that conceals users information and allows money to switch hands anonymously.

"IP addresses are obscured but, like with any traditional crime, people get greedy; they foul up," the cybercrimes investigator said.

Authorities are targeting criminals using The Dark Net for everything from child porn to identity theft.

Katie Nicholas was just one of hundreds of victims whose credit card information was being sold as part of a single "dump" on this underground site.

"I looked on my bank account and I saw a whole bunch of transactions that had been either gone through or been preauthorized," Nicholas said.

In addition to selling financial information--- dark net criminals are attacking unsuspecting victims in another way ---

"It's terroristic on one level, that we are going to expose you completely," the computer intelligence expert said.

They're using The Dark Net to expose detailed private information about public figures and celebrities. Authorities call it an aggressive form of cyber-bullying. From President Barack Obama to Oprah; from NFL quarterback Micheal Vick to pop star Britney Spears, all have had personal details about their lives compromised on The Dark Net.

"For the most part, it is more organized groups that are using the underground internet," the cybercrimes investigator told us.

But bad guys beware. Police say they are getting wise to the ways of these cybercriminals.

"If we get one little piece of evidence and we can trace that back somewhere, eventually we will get you," the cybercrimes investigator said. "We will find you."

So is there anything you can do to protect yourself? It may sound simple, but you must closely monitor your financial and personal information on a regular basis.

Find Jeff on Facebook at ABC13JeffEhling or on Twitter at @jeffehlingabc13

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