Dark Web – Radio Interview

Audio and transcript of my radio interview on AM1100 about the dark web

Audio and transcript of my July 17th, 2017 radio interview about the dark web on the “Need to Know Morning Show” with Steve Hallstrom and Alex Taylor on  AM1100 The Flag, WZFG.

You can read more about the Dark Web on my previous post here: What Is The Dark Web?

– Weston Henry

Transcript of my radio interview:

Steve:

I’m very excited to have in the studio today Wes Henry. He’s our community VIP. He’s the chief information officer at True IT. If you don’t know about True IT, well you should. We use them here at The Flag. They do a phenomenal job with us helping to keep our machines and office equipment running at to speed so that we can do all the things that we need to do here at The Flag. Somewhat dependent on equipment and technology we are certainly here on the program.
We are thankful to have Wes in today because as we’ve been doing news stories here in the three years or whatever we’ve been doing this show you hear this term, “the dark web,” come up every so often.

Alex:

Yeah, we don’t know what it is!

Steve:

Yeah, we gotta find out where or what this is.

Alex:

We are old people. (laughs) Like what’s going on there.

Steve:

I had a thought for a long time that the dark web was just something people made up. Like it was this mythology of like someplace you could go on the web and it was just a different website or whatever and there really wasn’t much to it but as we started reading and learning more about it we said, “well there’s something here,” and so we wanted to see if Wes would come by and help us sort the fact from the fiction.

Good morning Wes, how are you?

Weston:

Good morning! Doing great, thank you.

Steve:

Thanks for coming by today we appreciate it very much. So first of all for those that are new to the subject what is the dark web? Give us your best explanation please.

Weston:

The easiest way I can explain it is if you’ve ever seen a sci-fi movie where they go into a parallel universe where everything is the same but it’s also very different. The dark web is kinda like that. It’s a parallel version of our Internet that’s uncensored and essentially lawless, uncontrolled. So you can find all kinds of things on there. And some are good but a lot of the dark web is used for bad purposes.

Steve:

So is there a Google Chrome? I mean how to do you access, is there a browser or how to do you get there?

Weston:

Yeah, exactly it’s just through a regular browser. If you’re techie you can configure your own browser to go on the dark web. But there are also downloads where you can just go download a browser and install it and it’s already preconfigured to connect to the dark web for you.

Steve:

So I imagine you go to Craigslist or something and start surfing around you can find these software applications or whatever it might be to download the kind of browser you need to get in?

Weston:

Yeah, it’s not even Craigslist. Literally you can just go to Google or Bing or most search engines and type in …

Alex:

So I could just Google “dark web” and it would come up with something to get me in there? Basically?

Weston:

Yep. You know obviously you’ll get a collection of links but if you look through it you’ll find several links in there that will take you right to installs of preconfigured browser packages that’ll get you right on the dark web.

Alex:

And what kind of things am I gonna find there that I don’t have right now?

Weston:

What are you gonna find on the dark web?

Alex:

Yeah.

Weston:

That’s a great question. That’s a can of worms! (laughs) So (um) … To answer that I gotta step back for just for a second. Part of what enables the dark web is that there’s communication protocols that make the communication anonymous and highly highly encrypted.

So essentially the purpose of this originally was to allow actually our own government, our military, to send data securely even when they were using someone else’s network. And then it was released open source and so anybody in the public across the could use these technologies. And then some are good and so for example citizens in countries that are oppressed that maybe are filtering content, filtering the truth, they can use these same kind of technologies to bypass those firewalls and get access to the rest of the Internet.

But as with many things, people abuse it and there’s a seedy side to it.

Alex:

So like North Korea, they don’t have really access to the web. But if there were there they could go in and find out what’s going on in the rest of the world.

Weston:

Right! So North Koreans are heavily filtered. Their citizens, for example, could use these technologies and still get access to western web sites, essentially the truth, and bypass that filter. Exactly, yep!

Alex:

So what benefit would it be for me to go on there and do… what? OK. I could buy illegal things I suppose.

Weston:

Yep! That’s definitely one use.

Alex:

Is there any other uses for this that I might want to use?

Weston:

For the common citizen, you know, a law abiding citizen there probably isn’t a lot of purpose. Some of the positive uses of the dark web are because of this anonymity they’re used for example for whistleblower sites. So there are sites out there that are just intended for whistleblowers. They’re open to anybody to post whatever you want to and then they’re monitored by some media outlets, for example. That’s one.

Political activism sites can also do it use the dark web, again, mostly to avoid…

Alex:

So if I wanted to organize some kind of group to have a riot and I don’t want them to know I’m paying them or whatever to come out and say…

Weston:

Yep! That’s a very possible use for the dark web.

Steve:

There has been a lot of discussion about the Dakota Access Pipeline protests and that exactly what you’re talking about Alex. That was one of the tools used to recruit people.

Alex:

So people wouldn’t know…

Steve:

We’ll pay you X amount of dollars to go out there. We’ll pay you $100 bonus to get in a scuffle with a cop. If you get arrested, we’ll give you another bonus… So there was a lot of that going on and a lot of people rumored that that all kind of happened through dark web channels.

So if I am somebody who want to go out and buy a bunch of cocaine or whatever and I’m thinking I’m gonna do this and be able to escape any kind of danger or whatever, that would be a foolish assertion because the government or law enforcement or whatever… this has to be a place where they go to try to figure out who’s doing the bad deed. Yes?

Weston:

Sure, yep. They can definitely go in there and see the same sites that you would see and look at the same communications that you would look at.

What the dark web does is it makes them so they can’t track you through your communications but as soon as you do something like give them your payment information or tell them what your home address is to ship you the drugs, obviously they’ve got that info.

Steve:

So you can lurk around pretty good and not get found out about. And then you’d have to figure out too, do the cops really care about if you’re going around looking at things or are they more involved in what happens but you could remain anonymous and just kind of see all the seedy things going on for a long time without really any danger so to speak.

Weston:

Right. There’s rumors that the NSA is somehow tracking this and trying to monitor people who use these dark web technologies. That’s never been proven but again it’s like a parallel Internet so you can browse all the web sites in the dark web you want to and nobody knows it’s you.

Alex:

So would you be able to spy on somebody else’s computer without them knowing? I mean would the dark web give someone that technology say if I wanted to check up on one of my competitors in business or whatever… could I do that?

Weston:

Not directly. The dark web doesn’t enable you to do that. One of the things about the dark web though is there’s lots of people that are offering different kinds of services. So hackers is one of those. There are lots of people offering hacker services on the dark web…

Alex:

That could do that.

Weston:

That could do that. You could go on there an hire them.

Alex:

Wow.

Steve:

We’re visiting with Wes Henry. He is True IT’s chief information officer. True IT is a company that you really have got to get to know if you don’t know them already. We use them for our IT services here at The Flag. They do a great job for us they’re always very responsive, super helpful and whenever we bring up an idea to them they’re like two steps ahead of us. They’re like, “Yep, yeah we know about that. We’ve been trying it out here and there and we’ve got a couple companies that are using it and this might be something good for you guys.”

So we never surprise them at True IT. Unless I break my computer or download some virus or something and then they’re like, “Hallstrom what are you up to now?”

But they’re even always good I haven’t had that happen yet, knock on wood. But we’ve had it happen here at The Flag. There are so many weird things going on.

Wes, I’ll just spend a minute on that. It is amazing to me the amount of time, effort, and energy that goes into creating viruses. And I know people are sometimes looking for money like some of these ransomware things that we see going on but there’s a lot of people with a lot of spare time on their hands that just want to make things difficult.

Weston:

That’s really true, unfortunately. I wish those people… And they’re brilliant some of these people that create these viruses and malware and ransomware. I wish they would put their efforts to positive instead of doing stuff like that.

Steve:

Agreed. Yeah, no kidding.

Ah, we continue to hear great things about you out in the community and we love working with you guys so keep up the good work.

Weston:

Thank you!

Steve:

We’ve been talking about the dark web today with Wes and the dark web is something that we’ve… you know I think a lot of us have heard bits and pieces and we’ve heard there is a dark web but what do you go to www.darkweb.com or what? So we’ve been getting the low down on this today from Wes and some really interesting information.

Wes, my next question for you has to do with the future of the dark web if you will. If there’s been a dark web that’s been created at one time for national security secrets that’s kind of now been abandoned if you will and people have jumped in and done other things with it, I’ve got to assume that there are other alternate universes that could spring up in other places that we don’t know about yet or that people are trying to create right now. I’m guessing that you could have many different varieties or manifestations of this out there with the technology that’s available these days. Yes?

Weston:

That’s very true. The dark web is actually just a generic term for lots of what are called dark nets. And so a dark net is a collection of these dark sites that use the same kind of tools or technologies to make them happen. So there’s already many different dark nets and there’s always going to be more.

Anytime a new technology comes out, you know new software or new encryption or something like that, there’ll be people who try to find ways to bend it to their purposes. So there’s always going to be new…

Steve:

I supposed you could draw a parallel to just secure websites. You know there are certain sites on there I can’t log onto because I don’t have the right password. It’s that, I guess, on steroids with something like the dark web.

Weston:

Right! Yep, that’s a really good way to think of it.

Steve:

So, is there a way whether it’s your federal government here in the states or say China or North Korea or whomever… Is there always going to be a way for people that are running our governmental entities… Is there always going to be a way for them to see what’s happening on there so that they know… So like, is there a scenario out there where something could really be going on that nobody does really know about it. If someone wanted human trafficking or whatever… Is there a way where you can keep creating places where you’re always a step ahead of the law?

Weston:

It is possible. Most of what we think of as the dark web today is meant to be open and easily accessible for people but there are other security protocols, you know encryptions and things like that, where you have to be invited into them. You have to have a secret key in effect, like you have to have a secret handshake kind of thing, in order to get access. And those already exist today and they’re very easy to create new ones of those too.

Alex:

What can parents do if they’re concerned their kids might be buying drugs and things like that online, is there anything they can do to prevent it or going into their computers or find out if their kids are searching these sites for different things?

Weston:

It’s not easy actually. The technology for the dark web, especially some of the protocols are… they’re layered on top of our normal Internet traffic and so there isn’t necessarily an easy way to filter and block them and things like that.

Alex:

Just check the history.

Weston:

That would be one way to do it but a lot of times you’ll access the dark web from a separate browser because it’s so easy just to download one that’s configured for that so you’d have to know enough to look for those kind of browsers installed on the computer. And they make them now where you can just put them on a flashdrive. So you don’t even install them on a computer you just put them on a flashdrive, plug them in when you need them, take them out and slip them in your pocket. Unless you caught them with that flashdrive, plugged it in yourself to see what was on it… it’s pretty hard to catch.

Alex:

Wow.

Weston:

That’s also a fear at work too. In the workplace, people can bring these in and plug them into their work computer.

Steve:

How much training and background and knowledge do you need to create these kinds of secure areas where things can be set up this way. I mean, are high school kids out there setting this kind of thing up or is this something that’s gotta have twenty years of experience to know what to do.

Weston:

I wish it took twenty years.

Steve:

Yeah, right.

Weston:

No, literally some Google searching and if you’re reasonably technical and can install some software and understand… Probably the most complicated part is understanding the IP settings, that kind of thing, there’s routing and stuff like that that you have to setup. That’s probably the most technical thing. But there’s no doubt that high school students, there are many high school students out there with the capabilities.

Steve:

We have an email, “Hey Steve: Let your listeners know that to access the dark web you’re supposed to use the TOR browser.” TOR. I have no idea what this person’s talking about but Wes you’re nodding your head what’s the TOR browser.

Weston:

Right. So, TOR is probably the most common one of these browsers that are preconfigured to access the dark net. TOR is probably the most common protocol that’s encrypting and anonymizing this traffic and the people that create that TOR protocol also made a package you can install that’s also got the browser that’s already preconfigured.

Steve:

Ok.

If we were to be on the dark web or one of the sites there, would it seem at face value, would it seem like we’re in something really freaky and creepy or would we just… would it just be data? I mean are there pretty pictures like they are on Amazon.com and what do things look like there?

Weston:

Yeah, it really does look just like the Internet that we’d see today. The one thing I would say is that tends to look a little less polished because you don’t have people with big bucks like Amazon and so on putting the sites together. So they look like 10 year old web sites or something like that.

But that being said, Facebook has a dark web site Facebook site. You can log into Facebook, and it’s the actual Facebook, through the dark web so, you know, some of these bigger names, bigger corporations are going to start putting their information on the dark web.

Alex:

So that would be unfiltered then, you’d probably see risqué pictures and things like that on there?

Weston:

In the case of Facebook, it’s truly their legitimate Facebook site so all the same rules and everything apply. The only reason they put it on there is because you can access it again anonymously, etc.

Alex:

Oh.

Steve:

Oh, so it’s just another way to get your brand out there.

Weston:

Yeah.

Steve:

But the same rules apply. So a company can set their own rules for where they’re at no matter what platform they’re on.

Weston:

Right. Because they run their dark web website just like they run their “Clearnet” that’s the term for the regular Internet. Just like they run their Clearnet site they run their dark web site so Facebook sets the rules for their website.

Steve:

Ok.

Weston:

Same thing for all these other sites that have, you know, illegal information and sell drugs and so on.

Steve:

Yeah.

Weston:

It’s the people setting those up that are setting the rules for those sites.

Steve:

Pretty soon we’re going to be seeing, like, advertising campaigns targeting the dark web, “Hey pedophiles! We’ve got…” or “Hey coke users!”

Alex:

Yeah, there probably is.

Steve:

“We’ve got a (you know) a deal for you! If you feel like hanging out with other freaks then ah… come to the… this (ah) fair or whatever.” So…

Alex:

Yeah.

Steve:

Well interesting stuff. Wes this has been really helpful. Thanks for coming by.

Weston:

You’re welcome!

Steve:

And sharing a little bit about this. Anything we haven’t asked you about yet that you want to mention before we close the conversation today about this?

Weston:

I don’t think so…

You know, the dark web itself is mostly bad. You know it is a concern that it’s so easy to access from home or from business. If you have a concern about that I would definitely suggest that people get some technical help trying to figure out if that’s going on or not.

You know, at home you really know what the consequences are there obviously if your children are doing it that’s not a good thing.

In the business, you know the business can sometimes be held liable for the actions that their employees perform using their equipment and technology. And when you’re on the dark web there’s still a tiny little piece that’s associated with your IP and if that’s your business IP you can still banned or blocked or things like that and end up having trouble.

It is something that, you know, it’s not super prevalent in Fargo to my knowledge but it is something that businesses should consider too.

Steve:

Yeah. Well if that’s something that’s on your mind… that or anything else with your business IT needs, how do people get a hold of you at True IT?

Weston:

Sure, they can certainly call us. It’s 205-4506. And they can go on our website at www.trueit.com.

Steve:

Very simple. Wes, thank you for coming over today. This has been a good conversation. We appreciate your time.

Weston:

You’re welcome.

Steve:

Wes Henry, chief information officer at True IT.

We use them here at The Flag. They’re a great bunch of people, super responsive, and they know as you’ve heard from Wes, they know their stuff. Give them a call if you’d like to find out more.

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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