What is the dark web? How it’s involved with Rutgers credit card fraud charges

What is the dark web? How it’s involved with Rutgers credit card fraud charges

By James Kratch jkratch@njadvancemedia.com NJ Advance Media for NJ.com

Updated 4:50 PM; Posted 4:37 PM

Eight current or former Rutgers football players have received an array of charges related to an alleged credit card fraud scheme.

The alleged scam was predicated on stolen credit card information garnered from the “dark web,” according to Middlesex County Prosecutor Andrew Carey.

“The scheme itself was to obtain the credit card information over parts of the internet known as the dark web,” Carey said following former Scarlet Knights linebacker Brendan DeVera’s hearing in county Superior Court on Thursday, “and then certain other players were taking that information and being able to put the money on the credit card. … Some of the (players) who got the money put on their credit cards would go to such places as a book store on (campus) and they would purchase such things as gift cards, which is a red flag to law enforcement.”

Here’s what you need to know about the dark web:

What is the dark web?

The Sun defined it as “a network of untraceable online activity and websites on the internet.”

“They cannot be found using search engines and to access them you need to use specific software, configurations or have authorization,” the newspaper continued. “They are used by lots of different people to keep their web activity hidden.”

How did the dark web come to be? “The dark web was actually created by the U.S. government to allow spies to exchange information completely anonymously,” according to The Sun.

How is the dark web accessed?

To use the dark web, users need a special “anonymizing” browser known as “Tor,” according to CSO Online:

The Tor browser routes your web page requests through a series of proxy servers operated by thousands of volunteers around the globe, rendering your IP address unidentifiable and untraceable. Tor works like magic, but the result is an experience that’s like the dark web itself: unpredictable, unreliable and maddeningly slow.

The dark web and crime:

The dark web is not entirely dedicated to illegal activities. But it’s close. Several years ago, according to CSO Online, two London-based researchers classified the contents of over 2,700 dark web websites. They found 57 percent to be hosting illicit material.

2017 McClatchy report on the dark web was quite blunt:

An internet realm known as the dark web was once promoted as a safe haven for political dissidents and libertarians worldwide, and financed partly by the State Department. But it has turned into a criminal cesspool.

Rogue hackers sell stolen credit card information there, and gun runners peddle every variety of weapon. Pedophiles and malware merchants lurk in its confines alongside opioid dealers and human traffickers.

What happens on the dark web is so ugly that cybersecurity firms that comb its data routinely share the information with the FBI and other law enforcement agencies.

CSO Online also provided some examples of cyber theft prevalent on the dark web that are similar to the allegations made against the Rutgers players:

You can buy credit card numbers, all manner of drugs, guns, counterfeit money, stolen subscription credentials, hacked Netflix accounts and software that helps you break into other people’s computers. Buy login credentials to a $50,000 Bank of America account for $500. Get $3,000 in counterfeit $20 bills for $600. Buy seven prepaid debit cards, each with a $2,500 balance, for $500 (express shipping included). A “lifetime” Netflix premium account goes for $6. You can hire hackers to attack computers for you. You can buy usernames and passwords.

The players are accused of stealing credit card numbers and transferring funds from various Rutgers University Express Accounts for their own personal use, Carey said.

According to the university’s website, the RU Express card is a cash-free alternative that allows students to use their University ID cards like a debit card. It is accepted at nearly 70 on-campus restaurants, convenience stores and retail businesses and another 60 off-campus locations.

According to the terms, only the cardholder may present the Rutgers University ID card for purchases and other privileges and fraudulent use of the card will result in disciplinary action or penalties.

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