Contrary to popular belief, not all of the dark web is bad.
Despite alleged activities of drug and people trafficking, fraud and weapons sales, the dark web is also full of whistleblowers and justice-seekers who do actual good.
Let’s take a look at some dark web statistics to get a better picture of this part of the internet.
There are three parts to the Internet. Surface, or clean web, deep web, and dark web, aka darknet.
Launched in 2000 under the name ‘Freenet’, the dark side of the Web constitutes close to 5% of the entire Internet. The size of the deep web is estimated to be between 96% and 99%, whereas the surface Web accounts for just one to 4% of the total Internet.
What’s the difference between the dark web and the deep web?
The deep web is hidden as well, but mostly consists of content protected by a paywall, logins, passwords and other authentication forms.
Regular browsers such as Chrome and Firefox simply won’t work to access the dark web. You will need to use special web browsers such as Tor and I2P, the former being the most popular dark web browser.
Over 2 million users access the dark web through the Tor browser daily with Russia accounting for most users (21.80%). The UK is on the other end of the spectrum, where only 2.84% connect to the darknet with the Tor browser.
The Tor browser has seen an increase in bandwidth capacity from 50 gigabits per second in 2014 to around 300 gigabits per second four years later. The number of unique Tor addresses for services also went up from 30,000 to 80,000 during the same period.
(Taylor & Francis Group)
According to research that analysed over 5,000 live websites on the Tor darknet, around 1,547 had illicit content. The analysis discovered that the most common uses for websites on Tor hidden services included drugs (423 websites), finance (327), illegitimate pornography (122) and hacking (96).
One noteworthy finding was the near-absence of Islamic extremism on Tor hidden services, with just a handful of active sites, dark web terrorism stats and facts reveal.
North Americans have taken the top spot in terms of dark web usage with 26% of them visiting it in 2019. Second place goes to Latin America with 21%, and Europe takes third place with 17% of its residents using the dark web daily.
Bitcoin transactions on the dark web grew from around $250 million in 2012 to $872 million in 2018, according to an analytic firm Chainalysis. The report also states that the proportion of Bitcoin transactions tied to illicit deals has declined by 6% since 2012 and accounted for less than 1% of all Bitcoin activity in 2018.
It is estimated that there are more than 65,000 unique URLs ending with .onion on the Tor network. However, a 2016 study carried out by research firm Terbium Labs analysed 400 randomly selected .onion sites and found over half of them to be legal.
(Cardiff Metropolitan University)
A survey regarding the relevance of the dark web in today’s society revealed the following dark web statistics:
Weapons are commonly traded on the dark web with firearms listings taking up the lion’s share (43%), followed by digital products (27%) and non-firearms weapons (22%). Ammunition accounted for the lowest share of listings with just 7%.
Within the firearms category, the most commonly listed guns are pistols, making up 84% of the complete categories. Following this, are rifles at 10%, and then sub-machine guns at 6%.
Even though as much as 60% of firearm products come from the US, it is Europe that has the largest market for such weapons.
According to a 2019 study, the number of dark web listings that could harm a company has risen by 20% since 2016. Of all listings, with the exception of those selling drugs, 60% could potentially harm companies.
SpyCloud Breach Exposure 2021 report shows that around 25.9 million Fortune 1000 business accounts and 543 million employee credentials were circulating on dark web hacking forums. This marked a 29% increase from 2020.
(Digit Fyi, PTSecurity)
What’s more, the demand for malware distribution is twice the supply. This is in line with research from PTSecurity which shows that 90% of users of dark web hacking forums are looking for hacking services, whereas only 7% of messages on forums actually offer to hack websites.
The latest data on the dark web and financial services shows the cost of stolen credentials. For instance, a stolen UK fully verified Skrill account details costs about $200, while a hacked UK Neteller account goes for about $70.
It’s not just financial details that are sold on the dark web. For instance, a hacked account on the most popular social media platform costs around $65, while Orange TV log-ins are priced at just $4.
No organisation is spared from leaked data. Research has shown that a hacked account of an Uber driver can be found on the dark web for $14, while a user’s account is sold for $8.
Dark web listings go from firearms and explosives (1%), hacking and malware (2%), guides and tutorials (11%), fraud and counterfeit (17%), and pharmaceuticals (3%). The majority of listings, however, fall to illicit drugs (48%).
The FBI investigation has revealed that, during its two and a half years in operation, the site had been used by several thousand drug dealers and other unlawful vendors, generating sales of more than 9.5 million in Bitcoin, valued at approximately $1.2 billion.
Speaking of dark web and money, Silk Road’s biggest successor, AlphaBay, was estimated to contain nearly 300,000 listings of drugs, stolen credit cards and other contraband, bringing in around $600,000 and $800,000 a day in profit.
A study identifies 788 COVID-19 specific listings that range from protective masks to hydroxychloroquine medicine. PPE is the most represented category, with 355 unique listings, followed by medicines, with 288 listings.
Another interesting category was guides on scamming, with 99 listings. It includes manuals on how to earn money exploiting flaws in Covid-19 related government relief funds.
Snowden leaked a lot of information about NSA mass surveillance programs that other people could access using passwords or codes via the dark web. He gathered the information from various journalists resulting in one of the biggest data leaks on the darknet. In fact, even though documents were leaked in 2013, reporters today are still releasing information from Snowden’s files.
Dark web terrorism statistics show that there were various sites set up by ISIS on the dark web to help spread news and propaganda while safeguarding content from hacktivists.
Accessing the dark web or using Tor is not illegal, although combining the use of the dark web with VPN can draw the attention of your ISP or government agencies. On the other hand, it is illegal to engage in criminal activities on the darknet, such as dealing drugs, weapons or promoting terrorism.
Which begs the question: is the dark web dangerous?
Not always, but as the dark web statistics above show you could easily be scammed when making purchases over the darknet, so always use encrypted and anonymous emails and pay in crypto, if possible.
As a digital marketing specialist, I am well aware of how hard it can be to find credible sources online. Frustrated at the state of affairs, I created Don’t Disappoint Me. Now, together with my team of dedicated experts, we aim to bring you 100% reliable, unbiased and recent content on everything you could ever imagine. When I’m not working, you’ll catch me watching a documentary or two, rewatching LOTR for the 20th time, or going on walks with my two dogs, which take up most of my free time. But hey, who’s complaining?