Messaging Applications: The New Dark Web

Why Read This Report?

In this report, IntSights looks to identify which mobile platforms are gaining traction and may be the future backbone of the illegal cyber-economy. The data in this report will help you understand how dark web communication is changing with mobile adoption and how this impacts the way security teams monitor dark web activity. By reading this report, security teams can better prepare for this shift and be better resourced to evolve with it.

Methodology: Using scraped data from thousands of black markets, paste sites, hacking forums, IRC channels, messaging apps, and social media pages over a twelve month period from July 2016 to July 2017, the IntSight threat research team conducted an analysis of how the frequency of mobile messaging app invites have changed over time.

As more and more online activity moves to mobile devices, and the veil of secrecy provided by Tor and I2P begins to fade, it is clear that hackers will need to respond and adjust how they communicate online. To find out, IntSights analyzed conversations, data and files taken from thousands of dark-web sites to see how the dark-web’s usage of mobile messaging apps have changed over time. While the use of mobile messaging apps for illicit activity have been on the rise for some time, the closure of Alphabay, Hansa and suspected compromise of Dream Market and the Tor Network have shaken confidence in more traditional dark web channels. In this analysis, we identify which mobile platforms are gaining traction and may be the future backbone of the illegal cyber-economy. Based on our findings, IntSights saw a 30x increase in mobile dark web activity over the past 12 months and estimates that as many as several hundred thousand users are actively abusing popular mobile messaging apps, such as Discord, Telegram and Whatsapp, to trade stolen credit cards, account credentials, malware, drugs and to share hacking methods and ideas. Of these, our findings suggest Discord is becoming the go-to-app for mobile dark web discussions with nearly 9x more dark web invitations than competing messaging apps.

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