The Top Dark Web Trends in 2022
According to data from the cybersecurity firm SonicWall, cyber attacks are up across the board in 2022. This trend holds for various techniques, from intrusions and malware to newer attack vectors such as cryptojacking and NFT crimes.
With cybersecurity an increasing concern, businesses and individuals alike must understand where their attackers come from and how they operate. These days, it is through the Dark Web. A portion of the internet not visible to the general public, the Dark Web is where a lot of sites organize and enable cyber crime.
This increasing activity means that, as 2022 draws to a close, everyone concerned about cybersecurity must know what’s happening on the Dark Web. Read on for a deeper dive into the Dark Web and an overview of three 2022 Dark Web trends.
What Is the Dark Web?
The Dark Web (not to be confused with the “Deep Web”) refers to the part of the internet that regular web browsers, such as Google Chrome or Firefox, cannot access. Instead, sites on the Dark Web require access through special tools and configurations, such as the Tor web browser designed to conceal users’ identities.
Due to its inherent secrecy, the Dark Web has earned a reputation — not entirely undeserved — for high levels of criminal activity. The Dark Web plays host to many online marketplaces for buying and selling illicit products. However, the Dark Web also has several legitimate use cases, such as preserving the anonymity of whistleblowers and people living under government repression.
3 Dark Web Trends in 2022 You Need to Know
The better informed businesses are about the latest Dark Web trends, the better they can protect themselves against would-be attackers. This section discusses three Dark Web trends in 2022 that you need to know.
1. Changes in pricing
Many sites on the Dark Web are a free-for-all marketplace, letting users buy everything from stolen credentials to hacking and malware kits. Yet, the law of supply and demand also applies to Dark Web sites, meaning that prices of goods and services change constantly.
The website Privacy Affairs, for example, has published a 2022 Dark Web price index, listing the average cost of various products on Dark Web marketplaces. Below is a representative sample of Dark Web prices in 2022:
Stolen credit card data with an account balance below $5,000: $120
Hacked Western Union account: $25
Hacked Crypto.com verified account: $250
Hacked Facebook account: $45
Forged New York driver’s license: $70
Forged European Union passport: $3,800
1,000 installs of “high-quality” malware on U.S. devices: $1,700
The Privacy Affairs report also notes that most 2022 Dark Web prices are down compared to previous years. One explanation may point to an increased supply of goods on the Dark Web in terms of variety and volume.
For example, a forged passport from the EU state of Malta cost $6,500 in 2021 but has since decreased by $2,700. While this example represents one of the largest plunges in sheer number, most other prices are down across the board, from malware and denial of service attacks to hacked accounts on cryptocurrency exchanges. Privacy Affairs speculates that this latter 2022 Dark Web trend is due to the recent crash in the crypto market.
2. Most popular marketplaces
As a haven for disreputable transactions, the marketplaces of the Dark Web are often in flux: while some are shut down or close their doors, others spring up to replace them. Perhaps the most notorious example is the Dark Web marketplace Silk Road, a popular site for selling drugs and other illegal transactions that the FBI shut down in 2013.
Today, the most popular Dark Web marketplaces look very different. Computer security researchers Víctor Labrador and Sergio Pastrana of the University Carlos III of Madrid used automated crawling software to collect data on Dark Web marketplaces. They then summarized their findings in the paper “Examining the trends and operations of modern Dark-Web marketplaces,” published in the 2022 IEEE European Symposium on Security and Privacy Workshops.
The authors concentrated on six of the largest Dark Web marketplaces. Below are the percentages of each site’s market share in terms of listings:
Dark0de: 37 percent
ToRReZ: 30 percent
DarkFox: 21 percent
ASAP: 10 percent
Cannazon: 2 percent
G. Dreams: Less than 1 percent
In addition, Labrador and Pastrana studied each marketplace’s size in terms of sales. This approach provides a significant change in the ranking of Dark Web marketplaces:
The authors note that this discrepancy is likely due to the different products that each marketplace has to offer. According to the study, illegal drugs are the most commonly purchased category of listings on Dark Web marketplaces. This means specialized marketplaces such as Cannazon, limited to only drug transactions, can see a high sales volume despite their limited market share.
Finally, Labrador and Pastrana discuss how Cannazon, the marketplace with the highest sales volume, was shut down during their study. According to the tech news site Bleeping Computer, Cannazon was forced to close after suffering a massive distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack. This outcome is yet another indication of how Dark Web trends in 2022 and beyond are constantly shifting.
3. More stolen data than ever
Far too often, businesses fail to protect customers' sensitive and confidential data from attackers. The resulting data breaches can expose thousands or millions of personal records, putting individuals’ privacy and financial security at risk.
According to the report “Account Takeover in 2022,” more than 24 billion user credentials are available in criminal marketplaces and forums on the Dark Web. This figure represents a 65 percent increase from the previous report two years prior.
The report also finds that 6.7 billion of these credentials have unique username-password combinations, making them especially valuable. These unique records have increased by 1.7 billion since the 2020 report.
What’s more, the Dark Web is home to many sophisticated schemes for making this stolen data available to anyone willing to pay for it. Some enterprising cybercriminals even provide dedicated subscription services with early access to user credentials from recent hacks. These offerings are valuable because data breaches rapidly lose their usefulness once users are notified and prompted to change their passwords.
We see three 2022 Dark Web trends:
The supply of Dark Web products is rapidly increasing, with a corresponding price decrease.
Dark Web marketplaces are constantly in flux, but products such as illegal drugs, fraudulent documents, and malware remain the most popular.
More stolen credentials are available on the Dark Web than ever before.
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