Drugs, guns, stolen identities — the media has recently started talking more about the types of activities and e-commerce taking place on darknets. Sites such as Silk Road, Silk Road 2.0, BMR and bitcoin — the currency of choice on the Tor darknet — have been openly discussed and analyzed. It seems the focus today is around darknets’ hidden services rather than the growing use of darknet as an infrastructure for malware communication.

Malware authors have been using darknets for malware communication for quite some time now. Notable examples include the Mevade Botnet, which communicated over Tor, the Chewbacca point-of-sale malware and i2Ninja, which utilized the I2P darknet. Using a darknet’s infrastructure for malware-to-C&C communication (and vice versa) addresses a major security issue malware authors have: What if malware researchers understand where and how the malware communicates? What if they are able to locate and identify the C&C? With more financial malware variants adopting this method of communication, it’s unsurprising other types of malware are also making their move into the dark.

One trend that seems to be growing is the creation of darknet-based botnets. IBM Security has witnessed a rising number of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks that originate in darknets and lash out through Tor exit nodes. It is currently estimated that there are several hundred botnets residing on TOR (not all of which are used for DDoS), and the number is constantly increasing. Another concerning trend is the adoption of darknets by ransomware. The most recent ransomware to use a darknet is Cryptowall 3.0, which is now communicating over I2P. It seems cybercriminals are increasingly relying on darknets for protection. However, not all is safe in these dark areas of the Internet. Another growing trend is that of malware specifically targeting Tor users and Tor-based file sharing.

To learn more about darknet-based malware and the dangers it presents to both victims and operators, please join my IBM InterConnect session, “Major Cyberfraud Innovations of the Last Twelve Months,” which will take place on Feb. 23 in Las Vegas. In this session, we will dive into the most significant cyberfraud innovations of the past year, with a focus on financial malware, cybercriminal gangs and underground discussions and offerings.

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