Dark Web: A Haven for Fake Digital Certificates

Being in a cybersecurity space, we at AppViewX keep a constant watch on the cyber attack events happening all around the world. The strange thing about cyber-attack is that it doesn’t seem real until it happens to us. You might not have any idea how big and organized the cybercrime industry is because of lack of enough information. But know that the industry is growing at an exponential rate with more and more criminals getting access to sophisticated technologies to perform cyber-attacks.

Today’s feature tries to bring awareness to you of the digital underworld that has grown in the past few years along with discussing its impact on us. Gone are the days when cybercrimes used to get associated with a teenaged hacker sending malicious content from his room. The industry has grown much bigger and organized to an extent that not even individuals or companies but the whole internet has developed a darker side of its own which is as real as the air you breathe. 

What is Dark Web?

Dark Web, or Dark net as it is sometimes called, is a World Wide Web that exists on the overlay networks that use internet. The main feature of it is that it allows anonymous exchange of information and transactions because of which it is widely used for illegal activities. Dark web can be accessed only through certain software and configuration which allows private computers to conduct business anonymously without revealing their identifying information, such as location. The dark web is not indexed by search engines and hence can not be accessed publicly without the required configuration and authorization.

2023 EMA Report: SSL/TLS Certificate Security-Management and Expiration Challenges

Dark Web vs Deep Web

The terms Dark Web and Deep Web are often used interchangeably but they are not same. Dark web is a subset of Deep web which is less accessible. A common trait between the two is that both are not indexed by search engines. 

Yet, deep web can be accessed by any web browser if you know the URL. But dark web content is encrypted and requires certain software with a correct decryption key to access the content. Services like Tor browser allow secure and untraceable transactions for countless websites to perform illegal activities like online drugs sales, extortion-related processes like ransomware, or money laundering.

For a clear understanding of Dark web and Deep web, you can imagine the internet in three different layers. The surface layer is what most of us in our daily life use for reasons like emails, ecommerce, e-banking or news. Beneath it is Deep Web which are not indexed by Google, Yahoo, or Bing. And further down, the third layer is the Dark Web.

Digital Certificates on the Dark Web

Just the fact that you are reading this blog shows that you might be already aware of concepts like machine identity and would have acquired digital certificates for the devices in your network. If you haven’t then you must, because that’s the least you could do to prevent your organization from fraudulent attacks. But know that even gaining digital certificates does not safeguard you from all the evils that exist in the internet world out there. 

There have been many reported incidents where fake digital certificates like SSL/TLS or Code Signing certificates were found on sale on Dark Web. A research project reveals an existing underground market with vendors claiming to issue fake EV certificates for the companies in UK and US for less than $2000. There is a steady supply of compromised SSL/TLS certificates in five of the Darknet markets – Dream Market, Wall Street Market, BlockBooth, Nightmare Market and Galaxy3.

What’s more, vendors in Dark web are claiming to provide forged certificates from a reputable certificate authority too. They also provide forged documentation that allows hackers to present themselves as an authentic company present in the UK or US.

Gaining access to TLS certificates allows attackers to pass through browser validations like HTTPS and safe-browsing mode to perform malicious activities on the users’ computers. Likewise, Code signing is another area where an attacker can infuse a malware into a software and use a fake certificate to gain an identity of an original publisher.

Safeguarding Machine Identity

With the boom of internet and even the prevention mechanisms like safeguarding machine identities through digital certificates, usage of fake certificates was quite expected. Hackers are way too smart to not use fake certificates for performing attacks. When the legitimate certificates are not used in your web communication, the browser itself shows “not secure” message on the address bar. No hacker would want that. Hence, the adoption of fake certificates has been rising and what better place to find them than the Dark Web, the haven for all illegal activities.

If you want to take complete control over your machine identity management then the best choice would be to leave this job to a specialized vendor. There’s much more required than just acquiring a certificate and installing it. A high-end automated process along with their in-depth research on latest trends and events helps them provide the most up-to-date solution to their customers.

An automated management of certificates and keys is something that can ensure maximum security from growing threats all over the internet. The world of illegal activities is growing and so are the security companies’ approach to tackle them. Leaving the identity management process to a vendor, whose whole and sole job is to produce the best solution possible, can considerably reduce the risk of cybercrime and turn your ecosystem a much safer place to conduct your business.

Do you want to manage your machine identities better?


  • Certificate Management
  • machine identity management
  • SSL Certificate Management

About the Author

Shoeb Ahmed

Senior Marketer

Shoeb is an Author and a Senior Marketer at AppViewX. His passion lies in communicating the organization's core values and offerings to the larger audience.

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