Like the mighty floes that break off from glaciers, just 10% of the community we call”the internet” is visible to the general public. Hidden below the digital waterline establishes a tangled and secretive network called the Deep Web.
Companies like AT&T, keen to review, track, and control action within its blurry boundaries, are working to bring light into the corners of the Deep Web. Law enforcement agencies and government officials, worried about illegal trafficking piracy, and flows, are in the strange position of trying to police the wild and netherworld they rely on for their very own clandestine operations. However, scandals, secrets, and skulkers will always find their way to the shadowiest parts of the net, and as the potential of the Deep Internet might be as ambiguous as its labyrinthine tangles, it is guaranteed to remain part of internet lore for many years to come.
The Deep Web has a powerful interest privacy advocates, who’ve taken advantage of this dearth of monitoring to protect their anonymity from advertisers and officials . Whistleblower Edward Snowden used the Deep Web to collect a lot of the information that carried him into a global controversy, and supporters across the globe are coming to rely on it because a more secure option to the people net while looking for sensitive or dangerous info.
Nevertheless, the nature of this community has also made it a haven for criminals trafficking in everything from drugs that were illegal, of various stripes into credit cards into child pornography. The site had a reputation as the net’s go-to destination for illicit drug sales (including thousands of listings for heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines), and its own demise spawned both a crowd-sourced documentary from actor Alex Winter and also a bevy of successors excited to capitalize on the autumn of the better-known sibling.
The web has, in its storied history, been compared to a lot of things: a lake; a superhighway; also, perhaps most famously, a set of tubes. But as it turns out, the comparison of all might be an iceberg.
What is the Deep Web?
Put simply, it is the part of the internet that is hidden from view.
- Surface Web
- 4% of WWW content
- Also known as the ‘Visible Web’, it is content that can be found using search engines such as Google or Yahoo. It is under constant surveillance by the government.
- Deep Web
- 96% of WWW content
- Also known as the ‘Invisible Web’, it is the content that cannot be indexed by search engines. And it is hard to keep track of.
The Deep Web is estimated to be at least 500x the size of the Surface Web.
How do you access it?
When using the Surface Web, you access data directly from the source.
This direct approach tracks the information downloaded, from where and when it was accessed, and your exact location.
Information on the Deep Web cannot be accessed directly. This is because data is not held on any single page, but rather in databases, which makes it difficult for search engines to index.
Files are shared through any number of computers connected to the internet that hold the information you need. This is known as peer-to-peer networking.
In order to access the Deep Web, you need to use a dedicated browser. TOR (The Onion Router) is the most commonly used, but other options such as I2P and Freenet offer an alternative solution.
This method of sharing encrypted data makes it difficult for your location, and the kind of information you access, to be tracked or monitored.
Is it legal?
Yes. You use it as you would any other internet browser. Many people are now beginning to use TOR as a way to maintain their privacy whilst online.
- Who else uses it:
- Police and crime units
- Edward Snowden
- Julian Assange
Due to the anonymity that TOR offers, the Deep Web has also become a popular nesting ground for criminal activity. This includes things such as:
- Weapons trading
- Child pornography
- Hit men for hire*
*Though there are groups on the Deep Web claiming to offer this service, there has been no legitimate proof of their existence.
The influence of Bitcoin
The Silk Road became one such popular website on the Deep Web. Known also as the “eBay of drugs”, it is a place to buy and sell things – but mainly illegal drugs.
This was made possible by the use of Bitcoin, a virtual currency that makes use of the encrypted peer-to-peer system.
Bitcoin allows users to conduct business transactions anonymously. This has allowed some users of the currency to engage in illegal activity.
- First Bitcoin traded
- JAN – Silk Road founded by the user ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’
- FEB – Bitcoin triples in value
- JUN – US senate investigates link between Bitcoin and Silk Road
- NOV – Bitcoin loses over 90% of its value
- OCT – FBI locate and arrest the person accused of being the ‘Dread Pirate Roberts’. Silk Road is shut down.
- NOV – Silk Road 2.0 founded
Bitcoin triples in value*
*Bitcoin is known to be a volatile currency, even though its value has on average constantly increased since its inception, it is prone to large fluctuations in perceived value.
Over $1 billion worth of goods were sold on Silk Road before it was shut down.
There may be a wealth of information out there in the Deep Web, but you should be careful about what you look for. Just like Alice – the deeper you go, the more trouble you could find yourself in.