Tech Transformers

Amateurs are buying DIY hacking kits off the dark web

Wannabe hackers buying DIY hacking kits off the "dark web" using cryptocurrencies are fast becoming one of the biggest threats to businesses, the cyber chief or European law agency Europol warned Wednesday.

The so-called "dark web" is a heavily encrypted part of the internet that makes it difficult for authorities to detect the location or owners of a website. It is notorious for hosting marketplaces selling illegal items such as drugs.

"There is an industry growing from criminal entrepreneurs to deliver to those that are interested in crime," Wil van Gemert, the acting head of EC3, Europol's cyber division, told CNBC by phone on Wednesday.

"Those who are not professionals are now level."

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Gemert said amateurs are using cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin to buy kits online that help them easily deploy malware to infect devices. The result is the ability for inexperienced hackers to have the same capabilities as the pros.

"That is the danger, even those who are not professional are able to carry out an attack on bigger infrastructure by using the facilities they are buying online," van Gemert said.

‘Difficult, not impossible’

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Online marketplace Silk Road was perhaps the most notorious and well-known site on the dark web. It sold a number of items including illegal drugs and its founder Ross Ulbricht was recently sentenced to life in jail.

Earlier this year, a new marketplace popped up specifically aimed at people selling "zero day exploits" – security flaws in a company that is not known and for which no patch exists. The website is called TheRealDeal Market and is hosted on the dark web, according to Wired.

Tackling dark net websites has been difficult for the law authorities due to the complex encryption around sites that make it difficult to see where they are based.

Last year, Europol and the FBI carried out Operation Onymous which aimed at shutting down dark net marketplaces selling illegal items. More than 410 hidden services were shut down, and bitcoins worth around $1 million were seized. Van Gemet pointed to this example as progress in tackling dark web actors, but admitted it was still difficult.

"It is difficult but not impossible," van Gemet said.