01 Jun Know what you don’t know (& learn how to stay safe): The Dark Web & cyber tips
By Yasmeen Zerafa, VSM Intern
The dark web cannot be accessed through a regular browser, but rather through specialised web browsers that scramble one’s IP address and open portals to websites that host illegal activities. What can one find in the deep dark alleys of the dark web? The options are manifold and most of them will give you chills: black markets selling or conducting transactions involving drugs, firearms or human beings, chat rooms for paedophiles and a list of illegal activities that can go on forever.
As one would expect, anonymity is a precious asset in the dark web. People often use VPN addresses to “re-locate” themselves in another part of the world. Making anonymous orders is possible by using crypto currency, of which there are various types ranging from Bitcoin to Zcash. Essentially, crypto currency is just like any other currency in the world, with its own face value, and subject to inflation, deflation and all other fluctuations that any other currency would be subject to. When one uses Bitcoin, both the buyer and the seller are anonymous with no possibility of identification.
One horrifying truth is that lately several Maltese IRC (Internet Relay Chat) rooms have exposed an overwhelming number of paedophiles posting child pornographic material on online chat rooms. Two main Maltese chat rooms are frequently targeted by these molesters, who share pornographic images and information about their sickening fantasies. Five Maltese men have been charged with engaging in sexual activities with minors, child pornography, as well as recruiting young girls into the trade of prostitution. This information was passed on to the Maltese Police Force by an informer.
The dark web has opened up a host of opportunities for law-breakers, somewhat revolutionising crime as traditionally conceived. Although cyber crime is punishable by law, law enforcement agencies worldwide are often lacking adequate training and resources to prevent, mitigate and respond to criminal offences occurring online. There are several preventive measures that we can all take to stay safe online. Here are a few pointers:
- Create strong passwords and change them regularly
- Keep private information private. We don’t need to post everything we do on Facebook or Twitter, we don’t need to inform the world that we aren’t going to be home for the next week because we’re going to be abroad.
- Keep account numbers and personal information (including photographs or videos) private.
- Chatting with strangers and sharing personal information (including photos or videos) with users you do not know can be risky. Be mindful and do not underestimate the risks.
- Lock your devices when not in use.
- Always use your privacy settings on social networks websites.
- Protect your computer. Install programs such as malware and antiviruses; also keep an eye out when opening unknown attachments or beware of clicking links in emails that can lead to harmful spams. Remember that free apps on our mobile devices and tablets can hide viruses and spams as well.
- Report any unusual or suspicious activity going on online.
Click here for more cyber safety tips.
Project WO is funded by the Social Impact Awards
About the author: Yasmeen Zerafa is a second year Criminology Student. She is currently serving for the second term, the role of Secretary General of the Criminology Student’s Association (CSA). She has always shown interest in the community and in learning new ways of how crime can be reduced here in Malta. She also strives to connect Criminology in Malta with other fields and make this yet undiscovered field more known.
The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of Victim Support Malta.