After removing a user from Twitter without going through the normal public documentation routine, hackers have exposed the personal information of Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR)’s founders and top executives.  But did the hackers really shine a spotlight on a private, non-searchable internet?

Twitter Dark Internet Dorsey Costolo


Twitter’s founders and executives personal information released

Personal information on Twitter Inc (NYSE:TWTR) co-founders’ Jack Dorsey, Evan Williams, and Noah Glass and current CEO Dick Costolo provided the curious information of value: Their full 10-digit Social Security numbers, certain cell phone numbers, date-of-birth and previous postal addresses.  The information can be used by credit card fraudsters to perpetrate identity theft or, if combined with email addresses, and an attack on home networks on a more basis.

The attack was not discovered on the common internet, however, but was found on a Tor-based domain available with the “.onion” extension that is not searchable to common search engines.

Hackers expose the privacy issues of Twitter followers

The case not only exposes the privacy issues of Twitter followers – and their take-down of an alleged hacker without apparent due process.  But perhaps more broadly it opens up the issue of the dark, private world where an estimated 2.5 million users and as many as 600,000 web sites sit outside the grasp of authorities.  The exact number of users is difficult to determine due to the very anonymous nature of the service.

“Google (and other search engines) removes results to illegal sites, and this is a double-edged sword for our clients,” the Rift Recon report said. “For instance, this practice reduces the ability for you to find out that someone stole or leaked your Social Security Number on a carding forum or a pastebin-like site: in this climate, only the bad guys know where to go.”

Tor enables users to hide their locations while offering various communication services, including web publishing, instant messaging server, and other communications tools all without known other network identities. The initial goal of Tor was to establish an internet platform for publishing without censorship. This platform, however, has also turned into a location where criminal elements can buy and sell information.

This new level of Internet, called the Darknet, “adds layers of complexity to anything related to discovery,” the report said.  The Darknet is vast, and growth is explosive. There is no exact number of sites in operation, or way to obtain a correct total (and this is by design).