If it seems like hackers are always one step ahead, you may be right. With the authorities shutting major marketplaces on the dark web, the crooks have turned their attention to apps to steal your information.
Messaging apps are a favorite target. Hackers send links and attachments, such as a legitimate looking document, spreadsheet, or PDF file. When users open them up, it unleashes a mobile virus that can search your phone or laptop to find sensitive information, such as your online user names, passwords, and banking information.
The Most Popular Apps Being Targeted
The Apps being targeted are among the most popular in use today.
- Facebook Messenger
Cybersecurity firm IntSights was one of the first to report Apps being used for this purpose. They raised the alarm when they found a 30-fold increase in dark web activity in the past year that used mobile messaging Apps. They uncovered more than 9,000 links to dark web sites that were exchanged on the messaging App, Discord. Those are big numbers, especially considering the study only tracked messages from Brazil and Turkey.
It May Be Tough To Track Hackers
Messaging services are encrypted to keep things private between parties. That means a more difficult path to discovery for law enforcement. It also makes it tougher to track the bad guys since they aren’t the stereotypical hacker sitting at a computer, or a bank of servers conducting an attack. It makes the scammers completely mobile.
Back To The Dark Web
Once crooks get the information, they still need to find a use for it. In some cases, they will use it for personal gain, including draining your bank account, or using your health insurance information to get medical services.
There is also a market to buy and sell the info. The scammers may use messaging Apps to trade data and payments with buyers. Since messaging Apps are person-to-person communications that are encrypted, it may be difficult for a third-party, like a law enforcement agency, to uncover the connection.
Prolific hackers will bundle the stolen information and head back to a dark web marketplace to peddle it. While officials have shut down two of the largest dark web marketplaces, Alpha Bay and Hansa, they are kind of like weeds. Kill them in one place and they just pop up in another place.
Messaging Apps Have Simplified The Process
Using the dark web requires a fair amount of tech knowledge. You need to have special browsers, know how to mask your identity and route through servers, and you needed to know where to go. Dark web marketplaces don’t show up on Google! Messaging Apps have simplified all this. Directing someone to the right place on the dark web can be as simple as sending the right link.
Since hackers are using smaller, social media and Apps instead of online marketplaces, sites can be opened, closes, and moved easily. The perpetrators can disappear quickly.
It’s Not Just Organized Crime
There are syndicates out there doing this on a large scale, but there are also low-level criminals using Messaging Apps to scam you out of your information. You may be too smart of fall for that Nigerian Prince that is leaving you a fortune or the fake IRS agent trying to get your credit card, but you would be amazed on how many people will click on a link from someone they don’t know, or someone they met online.