Dark Web: The Unseen Side of The Internet
The Internet has changed everything from the way we work to the way we play to the way we live. It seems that there’s a corner of the internet for everyone despite what interests you have despite what your beliefs are there’s someone or something out there that thinks the same way that you do.
The Internet has connected us in ways that were never before imagined it’s a place where everyone from anywhere on earth can come together. There’s so much stuff on the Internet most of which you don’t even know exists. If you want something anything whether it be a service or product legal or illegal, immoral or unethical, the Internet has it.
You can choose to use this for good or bad much like the surface web that we all use every single day the Dark Web is full of websites and forums and services that we can use. But it’s hidden under a layer of protection under the surface lies the nest of dark and hidden activities that are blocked off from the rest of the world.
What is the Dark Web?
The Dark Web is the haven for illegal online activity and it goes deep much deeper than you might imagine its a place where criminals, predators, spies, drug and even human traffickers lie and it’s all hidden in plain sight. You could access it in minutes if you wanted but should you?
You can break down the internet into three separate categories. First, off we have the Surface web, this is everything that you use daily – YouTube, Twitter, any social media at all it’s all a part of what we call the World Wide Web. it’s relatively easy to find anything on the surface web as almost everything is indexed by search engines like Google every second over 1000 photos are posted on Instagram, 8000 tweets are posted on Twitter 70,000 Google searches take place and nearly 100,000 YouTube videos are watched.
From this, the surface web seems massive and in a way it is. In terms of pure traffic almost everything you do can be found here you could look up anyone and find some kind of information about them and their life. But what you can’t find are things like their bank account or medical records, these things are hidden under password-protected websites where only they can access them this is where we venture into the Deep Web.
The Deep Web
The Deep Web refers to the content on the internet that is not indexed by search engines basically if you can’t find it on Google it’s technically on the Deep Web. If you’ve ever logged into your email you’ve browsed the Deep Web technically and I know it might be a little disappointing that the Deep Web is not as cool as it sounds. It’s pretty much just as mundane as the surface web but with just a bit more secrecy but realize that the Deep Web is the most massive part of the Internet.
The Deep Web contains 96% of everything there is on the Internet. So even if you’ve got online every single day and searched through new websites for the next years you wouldn’t even put a dent into the pure amount of information there is on the Internet. There’s just too much to go through, most of which you couldn’t even get access to, but even further deeper than the Deep Web in the tiniest sliver of the Internet lies the part of the web where things don’t leave websites that are encrypted to hide their existence sliced without IP addresses to make them nearly unrecognizable – accessed by users with encrypted software to completely mask their identities. Here anything and everything goes. We’ve reached the Dark Web.
But how does this even work? How can you hide from the rest of the world on something that pretty much everyone has access to? If you’re browsing the surface web, chances are the FBI man is watching you. All right not really but for the average person everything you do online, can and in many ways will be tracked. Many websites will track what you’re searching and looking at and in turn advertise products or services to you that fit that description.
This isn’t anything new. Facebook, Amazon and most social media sites are guilty of this. They sell your data to advertisers around the world and you agreed to it in those terms and conditions that you didn’t read. This isn’t a coincidence and this doesn’t happen by accident. The internet wasn’t made to be anonymous. Some people see this as an invasion of privacy, others don’t see a problem with it at all.
But how far can we let this go before it turns bad? The United States government thought this too over 20 years ago. One of the systems that could protect their communications while online since the internet wasn’t designed for everyone and everything to remain anonymous in a way anyone could intercept government transmissions while they were being relayed and this was unacceptable. So in the mid-1990s researchers at the US Naval Research Laboratory began working on something called Onion Routing.
Onion Routing protects any data sent by essentially wrapping it with multiple layers of encryption where the innermost layer contains the original message. Look at it like this. Let’s say you need to get a message from Sender to Receiver. But to get that message to the end you have to go through three midpoints we’ll call them A, B and C. The message is then wrapped in three layers of encryption.
Each layer only knows where the message previously came from and where to send it next, nothing else. So the message or whatever data that was originally sent remains hidden and at each midpoint, a layer of encryption is stripped and the new layers of information tell it where to send the message to next. Eventually, after travelling through all the points the final layer is stripped and the message is revealed. The Soviet encryption allows our data to be sent to and from multiple places without it being vulnerable to interception in between no one else can see only those who are supposed to.
Because of Onion Routing Darknets like tor can exist. Darknets operated alongside networks like the internet or require certain software to access. Tor stands through the Onion Router. It’s software named after the technology that made it possible. It seems just like any other normal web browser but through tor and other similar darknets, you can access web pages that aren’t available to the general public. The tools and requirements needed to access the Dark Web are enough to attract different types of users from all around the world. Links to pages don’t look like youtube.com, they don’t look familiar whatsoever. Instead, they tend to look like random strings of characters and not .com or .org but .Onion. If you attempt to access these websites through any traditional web browser it’s not gonna work. But when using tor it will. This is the Dark Web your first step into it at least.
How to buy things on Dark Web?
The hidden wiki contains a list of hundreds of different hidden services you can find on the Dark Web. You can find fake US driver’s licenses and passports. You can find illegal weapons, you can find drugs it’s all here and we’re barely scratching the surface. Just like on the surface web marketplaces are extremely popular on the Dark Web where you can buy things that you may struggle to get elsewhere like rocket launchers.
Now I don’t condone you doing any of this, but if you wanted to purchase things from sites on the Dark Web here’s how you would do it. Using traditional forms of payment on the Dark Web doesn’t make much sense. Using things such as credit cards can easily be tracked – taking the anonymity of things away and now look you’re in jail. For these reasons, virtual currency is king. This is where Bitcoin comes in.
Dark Web Markets and Mode of Payment
Due to bitcoins almost anonymous nature, its used alongside other cryptocurrencies is pivotal in running any anonymous marketplace. Create a Bitcoin wallet and exchange some of your cash for Bitcoin. You know how your anonymous currency to do almost whatever you want with it. One of the first things that come to people’s minds from the Dark Web is mentioned are the vast amount of sites selling illegal drugs and similar items and yeah those are real. In 2011, a darknet market known as Silk Road opened for business. It’s since become almost synonymous with the Dark Web.
Here you could buy any illegal drug you’ve ever dreamed of. Sellers from all over the world sold things from weed to cocaine from DMT to LSD. If drugs aren’t your thing they also sold things like guns, counterfeit cash and some books and clothes as well. But after only two years in operation, the site was seized by the FBI and taken down in October 2013. Over only two years from 2011 to 2013, Silk Road generated over 9.5 Bitcoin in revenue. Now stretching this a bit if you sold these Bitcoin at the peak of its price in 2017 which is roughly $20,000, Silk Roads total revenue would amount to over $187 billion in just two years. Silk Road and other Dark Web Markets played a pretty big hand in the rise of Bitcoin.
In 2011 when Silk Road was created, Bitcoin was valued at less than a dollar. But because the Dark Web pretty much requires decentralized cryptocurrency, it was a perfect choice. To be honest, Bitcoin wouldn’t be where it is today without a bit of illegal activity. the creator Ross Ulbricht was found and arrested in 2013 which was ultimately the reason the site was taken down. He was given two life sentences plus 40 years in prison without a chance for parole and I find this kind of unfair. Despite all the illicit activity going on in the Dark Web, it’s not as massive as many make it out to be.
Many of the larger services end up getting taken down whether it be by a local government or even the FBI. But where there’s demand, supply will inevitably show. When one side is taken down, five new ones opened up to fill the void. After Silk Road was taken down Silk Road 2.0 opened up. It was taken down less than a year later. But after that Silk Road 3.0 opened up and this has continued going on for years.
Many of the creators and administrators of these sites were also found and convicted of similar crimes that Ross Ulbricht was guilty of. But instead of all of these people getting life in prison their sentences were much much shorter. Their largest seller on Silk Road was only given ten years in prison. The creator of Silk Road 2.0 was only given a little more than five years in prison. For creating the same thing that got Ross Ulbricht two life sentences in jail. Nearly everyone else who had any connection to any of these sites was given a max of a ten-year sentence.
Even if you never visit the Dark Web if you didn’t even know it existed it still affects you. It’s not uncommon to see data leaks and breaches pretty often nowadays. If your data was stored in a company’s database that was compromised there’s a chance for sales somewhere on the Dark Web where it could be purchased by anyone with access to it. If you don’t know what to spend your money on yet, let me help you out.
Social Security numbers can go for as little as a dollar. This is something given to every single US citizen and can be used to steal someone else’s identity. Botnets are also pretty cheap, for as little as a few dollars an hour you can perform a distributed denial of service or DDoS attack to essentially take almost any website or service temporarily offline. These botnets can severely affect anyone or any business that is targeted. If you’ve ever played video games online before someone’s probably done this to you.
You can also buy someone’s medical records for as low as 50$. There’s also stolen credit cards for sale as well. Just buy one rack up the bill and then never pay it. A lot of this data isn’t even for sale, it’s just out there. Websites are leaking the information of politicians celebrities and even normal people like you and me and there’s not much you can do about it but even worse than this there are some even darker things that can be carried out on the Dark Web. Multiple hitmen services are claiming to be able to kill almost anyone in the world you want for as little as 5000$, many of these have been revealed to be scams but not all of them.
But even though these may be scams the fact that there are people out there who trust random people on the Internet to carry out real murders is concerning, to say the least. There are also services selling real human organs. How they acquire these we’ll never know, but if you need one they are there. Child pornography is unfortunately a larger part of this than I’d like to admit. Sites such as Lolita city and playpen have been taken down. But during their peaks sites like these had over 200,000 users.
Similar forms exist that discussed ways of abducting children from different parts of the world where people would have discussions about how to hide them, what kind of kids they owned and even darker things that they would do to them when no one else is around. This is only a small look into this deep and dark corner of the Internet. The lack of rules here allows anything to exist. The deeper you go the scarier things you’ll find.
But yet despite all of these things that exist on the Dark Web, roughly half of all the funding for tours still comes from the United States government which is astounding when you consider the reputation that the Dark Web has a lot of people that have been arrested and thrown in prison for legal activities on the Dark Web don’t even seem physically threatening whatsoever. But if you can run a drug empire online or hire hitmen for a couple of Bitcoin without ever having to put yourself in danger, you might not have to be. These are people you could see walking down the street these are people that are in line behind you at the grocery store they seem just like normal people and you wouldn’t even know what they’re a part of just by looking at them.
Verdict – Dark Web Good or Bad
The Dark Web is portrayed as the vast criminal underground where millions of the worst people in society lurk and while this is partly true it’s not entirely that. It’s been claimed that there is only around 2000 to 10,000 of these hidden services on the Dark Web. With only a little over half of them being deemed illicit content but then again these numbers cannot be taken as fact because well-hidden services are by design meant to be hidden out of these few thousand websites.
Only less than six per cent of people who use tor use these hidden services that’s less than 120,000 people. Out of the billions of people who use the Internet, a hundred thousand used the Dark Web. Out of the billions of websites that exist a few thousand of them are deemed illicit. This is just a drop of water in the ocean there’s no surprise that not everyone in the world is as genuine as they may see but that’s the gamble you take. That’s the price you pay for this. While those darkest parts of the web exist, other parts exist to help the rest of the world.
Plenty of countries around the world censor Internet content that has deemed to be obscene by a higher power typically governments. The Dark Web provides a haven where none of the censorship exists providing the truth in many situations that people otherwise would have never seen. It gives people a place to truly speak about and report on things that are important without fear of censorship or even physical threats. Many of the largest news networks operate Dark Web services to allow people to come forward with information without the fear of being caught or publicly ridiculed.
But to be honest, everyone puts their entire lives on the internet at this point. 10 or 15 years ago this would have been absurd and quite frankly stupid, but now it seems pretty normal in a way we’re slowly giving up Internet privacy. But the Dark Web kind of protects that. It gives people the way to take their privacy and anonymity back whether they use this positively or negatively is up to them. The drugs that are sold on the Dark Web while mostly illegal can have some positive uses if you’re in a place where they aren’t sold, you could purchase them there.
While the FBI governments and much of the public beliefs Silk Road had vastly negative effects on the world, Ross Ulbricht thought otherwise he believed he was doing the world service rather than the violence that can result from the trading and dealing of illegal drugs. Silk Road provided a safer more genuine experience that brought an opportunity to the masses and protected people as opposed to putting them at risk.
But despite his apparent peaceful and non-harming nature he used these hitmen services on the Dark Web in attempts to have 6 different people killed. It all depends on how you view it and how open you are to interpretations. The Dark Web doesn’t have to be a terrible place. It’s only scary if you go looking for things that you don’t want to see. You can’t necessarily get rid of them but you can’t avoid them. There are some things that the average person just shouldn’t see if you don’t want to fall victim to this I’d stay away from the Dark Web.
Whether or not you believe it’s as bad as it’s made out to be if this is the first time you’re hearing about it you probably don’t know what you’re getting into and once you’re in you aren’t leaving.