Chances are you have heard of the “Dark Web,” alternatively known as the “Deep Web.” But, does it really exist, and if so, what exactly can be seen and purchased there?
Every troubling story you may have heard about the Dark Web is probably true. It is a treasure trove of perversion, where just about anything could be bought, from underage sex, to guns – lots and lots of guns.
But, what exactly is the Dark Web? Think of it as the Internet’s evil twin. The web you are familiar with, in this context is known as the “surface web.” It is the portion of the World Wide Web that is readily available to the general public and searchable with standard web search engines, such as Google or Bing.
But, believe it or not, the surface web forms only about 10% of the information available on the Internet. The deep web or invisible web is part of the World Wide Web whose contents are not indexed by standard web search engines, and require special, sometimes sophisticated authentications to gain access. These “dark sites” are either intentionally made inaccessible or are hidden due to their nature.
Accessing the Dark Web requires the use of an anonymizing browser called Tor that was originally developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) to protect military communications over the web, using something known as “onion browsing.” The Tor browser routes your web page requests through a series of proxy servers (like the layers of an onion) operated by thousands of volunteers around the globe, rendering your IP address unidentifiable and untraceable.
Login credentials are required for every page on the Dark Web. The Dark Web is entirely a mystery with every user being anonymous.
What Exactly Is the Dark Web Hiding?
Just as beneath the surface of a beautiful azure blue ocean there lurks a dark, mysterious, and dangerous hidden world, the Internet hides hideous tales in the depths of the Dark Web.
So what can be found on the Dark Web? Mostly illegal activities, illicit drugs of any kind can be bought and sold, guns of all types, and the most perverted sexual activities you could possibly imagine, and even a few that you couldn’t! Of course, there are hundreds of hate group recruiting sites, spreading their unique brand of filth. Have you ever wanted to know where and how to hire a hitman? You can get competitive bids on the Dark Web, just like hiring a plumber to fix a leaky faucet on “Angie’s List.”
From there, it just gets darker and darker. There are Satanism sites, sites that show videos torturing and killing puppies, kittens and other small animals, and probably one of the most nefarious sites of all, a website known as “Violent Desires,” which existed until 2016, when it was purportedly shut down by the FBI, where for a “hefty fee,” a doctor offered to “manufacture” living child sex dolls through a “combination of torture, experimentation, and body modification.”
But as sick as all of this sounds, the “darkest” (and biggest money-maker) on the Dark Web is that it is a repository for cybercrime. The Internet is information, and information of every kind, from your medical records, your personal ID, even your home’s title is for sale on the Dark Web. Who buys this information? Hackers, scammers, identity thieves, marketers, competitors. Anyone. The Deep Web serves as a global black market for information.
According to the FBI, on the Dark Web:
- A Medical record is sold for $50
- Your credit card information goes from anywhere from $20 – $100 per stolen card number
- Your Social Security number is worth $1 on the dark web
- Your bank account details can be sold for as much as $1000
- Mobile malware is sold for $150
- Commercial malware is sold for $2500
The Dark Web has flourished thanks to bitcoin, the cryptocurrency that enables two parties to conduct a trusted transaction without knowing each other’s identity.
Law enforcement officials are getting better at finding and prosecuting owners of sites that sell illicit goods and services. In the summer of 2017, a team of cybercops from three countries successfully shut down AlphaBay, the Dark Web’s largest source of contraband, sending shudders throughout the network.
You might wonder why the Dark Web is even allowed to exist. Despite all of the dirty doings to be found there, the Dark Web does serve some practical and legitimate purposes. The Tor network began as an anonymous communications channel, and it still serves a valuable purpose in helping people communicate in environments that are hostile to free speech. A lot of people will use it in countries like North Korea, or China, where the government is known to be eavesdropping on surface web traffic, or where internet access is criminalized altogether.
Furthermore, law enforcement agencies keep an ear to the ground on the Dark Web looking for stolen data from recent security breaches that might lead then to the perpetrators, and many “mainstream media” organizations monitor whistleblower sites looking for news.
Have you or anyone you know every searched the Dark Web? Tell us your experiences in the comments below!