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Sunday, October 17, 2021

Should Florida Worry About the Deepweb?

Orlando is safer than about 2% of other American cities, according to data from Location, Inc. Annually, there are over 19,000 crimes committed, about 2,300 of which are violent, making the city a little more than dangerous. But what many don’t realize is that there are other criminal elements that go unseen, lurking in the lawless bowels of the Internet, one of which just recently pulled off a $12 million exit scam.

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The vast majority of Internet users find what they’re looking for through search engines, like Google, but only a tiny fraction of the web has been indexed by these services. Currently, there are about 4.49 billion webpages online. Of these, Google has indexed some 200 Terabytes worth of data — 204,800 gigs — which is just 0.004% of the total Internet.

The collection of sites and webpages that cannot be found through search engines like Google is known as Deepweb. This is where hackers, scammers, con artists, drug dealers, and worse gather. It’s where a 16-year-old boy in England went to buy a potentially deadly toxin. It’s where Ross Ulbricht Williams, AKA the “Dread Pirate Roberts,” was able to run the Silk Road, an online bazaar of drugs and other illegal goods. And it’s where Evolution, the top site in the dark web drug trade, was able to scam $12 million out of would-be-consumers.

About a year and a half ago, the FBI and a host of other three-letter agencies took down the Silk Road. Since then, Evolution took its place at the top, functioning as a sort of eBay for illicit substances. Users accessed it through special web browser Tor, registered an account for free, and could then browse thousands of user-submitted listings, paying for goods with the crypto-currency Bitcoin.

In mid-March, Evolution halted withdrawals from its site, telling users that it was suffering technical difficulties. A couple days later, it vanished, leaving both buyers and sellers without a way to withdraw the money they’d stored in their Evolution accounts.

Unlike Silk Road, though, there was no indication that law enforcement had gotten to them. Instead, a Reddit user claiming to be one of the Evolution administrators warned that the exit scam was coming, citing recent shady activity he or she had seen in the site’s backend, which was only available to staff. An hour later, Evolution was gone.

While this incident may not have directly affected Floridians (unless they had money stowed away in Evolution accounts), it serves as a stoic reminder that these criminal elements are out there. Cyber crime is a serious problem, especially to Floridians.

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According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Florida leads second in the nation in Internet crime reports, and a report noted that non-delivery of payment or merchandise, scams impersonating the FBI, and identity theft were the three most common complaints made.

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