Cybercriminals have started indexing the dark web

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All of the websites you visit regularly are easy to find online because they have been indexed by search engines such as Google whiles sites on the dark web are often hard to find without knowing their exact address because they are not indexed.

However, new research from Digital Shadows has discovered a smart dark web indexing service called QUO. While there are similar services out there, QUO has been slowly building a reputation as a one-stop shop for users besides cybercriminals on the dark web.

According to the service's about page, QUO is “a dark web, full-text search engine designed to create a continuously updated index of onion pages” in order to provide its users with a way to “explore the dark web quickly and anonymously, without logs, cookies and JavaScript”.

Additionally, the service uses AI to check the sites it indexes for relevancy as well as for illegal content which is blacklisted automatically.

Indexing the dark web

At the time of writing, QUO's index contains over 200GB of data about approximately eight million pages from around 20,000 thousand sites including their URLs, titles, metadata, keywords and headings. The service also has a team of sponsors which includes the dark web marketplaces DarkTor, Empire Market and Imperial market, a Bitcoin mixing service called BitMIx and an illegal gift card generating service called GiftHub.

While Quo flags each Onion domain it indexes as online, offline or blacklisted, it also has a function that enables its users to report domains containing inappropriate content that may have slipped through its vetting process. 

As there is a very high probability of duplication on the dark web with multiple mirror domains for the same site, Quo's mirror engine goes through all of the index's pages to identify duplicate sites. Instead of simply discarding these URLs, the engine groups sites together and adds them to the mirror options list of any given domain.

Although competing services Kilos and Recon already offer similar functionality for the cybercriminal community, Quo is trying to index as much of the dark web as possible to make it into a useful resource for dark web users, researchers, curious individuals and others.

Now that Quo and other services have begun to index the dark web, accessing onion sites will likely become a lot easier for cybercriminals and regular users alike.

Anthony Spadafora

After working with the TechRadar Pro team for the last several years, Anthony is now the security and networking editor at Tom’s Guide where he covers everything from data breaches and ransomware gangs to the best way to cover your whole home or business with Wi-Fi. When not writing, you can find him tinkering with PCs and game consoles, managing cables and upgrading his smart home.