Research Finds 54 Billion Cookies for Sale on the Dark Web

Pretty much anything can be found for sale on the Dark Web, and this goes for cookies just as much as anything else. Researchers working at Nord VPN uncovered a dataset containing a whopping 54 billion cookies for sale on the Dark Web, and it’s just one of the many listings of this nature that can be found. As a result of the fact that this is the case, these researchers sought to analyze where these cookies came from, how they were stolen, as well as the type of information that they contained at this current point in time.

It is important to note that there are four types of cookies that must be discussed in the here and now. The first type are called first party cookies, and they’re basically created whenever you visit a particular website. This allows the site to store your log in details for easy access, as well as to customize the site based on your own personal preferences. These cookies can be used to steal sensitive information from you by malicious actors.

Another type of cookie worth mentioning are third party cookies. They’re used by sites other than the one you’re currently browsing, and they provide inter-site tracking as well as analytical data with all things having been considered and taken into account. This data can include things like your age, gender, sexual orientation, and other private information that can do a lot of harm if it ends up in the wrong hands. They can also result in you getting tracked in some way, shape or form.

And then there is the category of Super Cookies, which many people don’t know the first thing about. They are similar to standard cookies, except that they are a great deal more intrusive than might have been the case otherwise. They’re exceptionally challenging to locate let alone remove, which is quite different from first and third party cookies that are usually relatively easy to delete. They’re generally implemented by ISPs and can create a complete picture of who someone is.

Finally, there’s the classification of so-called “zombie” cookies. These are a subcategory of super cookies that replaces deleted cookies through stored information from places other than the dedicated cookie area within the web browser. The main issue with them is that they can allow hackers to scrape your data and also allow for a concerningly high amount of tracking.

As for how these cookies end up getting stolen, oftentimes it has to do with the use of malware. The three most prevalent forms of malware that are used for the purposes of stealing cookies are keyloggers, trojans, as well as info stealers. The most commonplace malware of all was the info stealer and keylogger called Redline of which there have been 30 billion instances 9 billion of which are currently active.

As per researchers, sellers tagged cookies with keywords indicating data type. Popular keywords included "assigned ID" (10.5B), "session ID" (739M), "authentication" (154M), and "login" (37M). These cookies often store personal data like names, emails, and addresses, posing a risk of cyberattacks. Active cookies could enable cybercriminals to access personal accounts and launch targeted attacks.

It bears mentioning that this malware is available as a service for the price of $100 per month, which just goes to show how easy it has become to use malware to steal cookies and for other nefarious purposes. More work must be done to prevent these cookies from ending up in the wrong hands.
Dataset includes first-party, third-party, Super Cookies, and "zombie" cookies.
Nord VPN researchers discover 54 billion cookies for sale on Dark Web.
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