Into the Darknet: A Beginner's Glossary of Terms

At DarkOwl Cybersecurity, we believe in the importance of educating everyone on the darknet. Much of the terminology we use to discuss darknet related content is common to those familiar with computer networking and information security, but like a foreign language to the general reader. Below are the first of a series of posts covering key terms and definitions you will find helpful as you continue to learn about the darknet and how it can affect both you and your business. Keep an eye on our Blog, as well as our continually-growing Darknet 101 Terms page, as we will continue to add to our list of terms over time.

Alias: A screen name intended to conceal a user's identity, with little to no ties to the user's actual personal information.

Darknet: The darknet is a network, built on top of the internet, that is purposefully hidden; it has been designed specifically for anonymity. Unlike the deep web, the darknet is only accessible with special tools and software - browsers and other protocol beyond direct links or credentials.

Denial of Service (DoS): A malicious attack on a network that is executed by flooding a server with useless network traffic, exploiting the limits of TCP/IP protocols and thus rendering the network inaccessible.

Domain Name Server (DNS): The internet’s equivalent to a phonebook. On the surface web, this consists of a routing table, translating a character based domain name (ending in *.com, *.net, etc.) to the server’s IPv4 32-bit IP address. In the darknet, a special set of Tor DNS servers correlate the *.onion sites to the source, usually through a series of proxies to obscure the server’s identity.

Firewall: Hardware and/or software that is specifically designed to protect a network or system from unauthorized access through employing specific rules to control and direct incoming and outgoing network traffic.

Forum: A digital environment where ideas and topics can be discussed freely among users. Members of forums generally log in with a screen name or alias to post and comment on content. Forums differ from real-time internet messaging and chat rooms in that the topics and information are not intended to be discussed real-time but instead posted for all users to see over a more extended period of time.

Hacking: The process of identifying targeted computer information systems of interest and employing a computer program to gain unauthorized access to the target system.

Internet Relay Chat (IRC): A popular text-based chat service enabling users connected to a server to communicate with each other in real-time.

Packet: A formatted unit of data routed between its origin and a destination. Data packets are used in internet protocol (IP) transmissions to navigate the internet and darknet.

Peer-to-Peer (P2P): An ad-hoc connection of computers where information can be passed directly between the participants. In a P2P, each node of the network functions as both the server and the client.

Phishing: A data collection method used in social engineering. Phishing targets sensitive information (usernames, passwords and credit card details), often for malicious intent, by disguising itself as a trustworthy entity in an electronic communication. See spoofing below.

Router: The hardware used to forward packets of information along a network, performing the traffic directing functions of the internet.

Scraping: In the context of web scraping, this term describes the process of harvesting large sets of data from websites and storing the content in a database on a local computer or server. 

Screen Name: The name a user employs to communicate with others online.

Spoofing: The process of falsifying the origin of network communication (via the internet) in order to mislead or misdirect the recipient. Example: a fake email from your bank asking you to validate credit card or personally identifiable information.

Username: A string of characters used to log in to a computer information system.