Dark Web shrank
The challenges and technical know-how associated with maintaining hidden services on the dark web may also have resulted in the drastic drop of servicesiStock

Dark web services have reportedly gone down recently. A massive cyberattack on Freedom Hosting II, a web hosting service that handled nearly 20% of all the dark web sites, mounted by the notorious Anonymous hacker group, is likely responsible for significantly shrinking the dark web.

According to a recent OnionScan report, only 4,400 dark web services currently remain active, a significant drop from the nearly 30,000 services that existed in 2016. This means that around 85% of the dark web was impacted following the cyberattack. Independent security researcher Sarah Jamie Lewis said the Anonymous Freedom Hosting II hack "not only removed many thousands of active sites but also may have affected other hosting providers who were hosting some infrastructure on top of Freedom Hosting II."

Anonymous hacked Freedom Hosting II in early February in efforts to shut down the service and leak much of its data after it was uncovered that the hosting provider allegedly provided services to numerous child pornography websites.

Lewis explained that the sudden disappearance of a popular secure email provider Sigaint can also likely be linked to the decline of various hidden services on the dark web.

The report also highlighted that operational patterns observed by OnionScan made it fairly simple to "correlate hidden services to each other" and also helped reveal that "most hidden services are likely operated by a small collection of organizations and people rather than by individuals."

Reports speculate that one of the reasons for the decline in dark web services could also be attributed to the possibility that most users have begun to perceive dark web as a platform majorly dedicated to criminal activity. Moreover, the challenges and technical know-how associated with maintaining hidden services on the dark web may also have resulted in the drastic drop of services.

As Lewis explained, "The difficulty of setting up and maintaining a website, combined with the skills required to run a Tor hidden service make offloading that work to a 3rd party tempting."