It seems that there’s a corner for everyone despite what interest you have. Despite what your beliefs are. There’s someone or something out there that thinks the same way 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 to exist. 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 website’s and forums and services that we can use, but it’s all hidden under a layer of protection. Under the surface likes a nest of dark and hidden activities that are blocked off from the rest of the world.
The Dark Web is the haven for illegal online activity and it goes deep much deeper than you can possibly imagine. It’s 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 could break down the Internet into three separate categories:
- Surface Web
- Deep Web
- Dark Web
First off we have the surface web. This is everything that you see on a daily basis. Medium.com, facebook.com, Google.com or any other social media at all. It’s all a part of what we call world wide web. It’s relatively easy to find anything on the surface web as almost everything is indexed by the search engines like Google, DuckDuckgo and Ecosia. Every second over 1,000 photos are posted on Instagram. 8,000 tweets are posted on Twitter. 70,000 Google searchers take place and nearly 100,000 Youtube videos are watched from this surface web.
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. But what you can’t find are things like their bank accounts or medical records, these things are hidden under password-protected websites. Where only they can access their details.
This is where we venture into 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 is technically on the Deep Web. If you have ever logged into your email, you have browsed the Deep Web technically and I know that the Deep Web is not as cools as it sounds. It’s pretty much just as mundane as the surface web, but with just a little 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 have got online every single day and searched through new websites for the next 50 years, you wouldn’t even 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. Sites without IP address to make them nearly unrecognizable. Accessed by users with encrypted software to completely mask their identities. Here anything and everything goes. We have 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 are browsing the surface web, chances are that FBI man is watching you all day and night, not really, but for the average person, everything you do online can and in many will be traced. Many websites will track what you are searching and looking at and in turn advertise products or services to you that fit that description. This is not something new. Facebook, Amazon and most of the social media sites are guilty of this. They sell data to advertisers around the world and you agree to it in those terms and condition 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.
Funny enough, the United States Government thought this too. Over 20 years ago. They wanted a system that could protect their communication while online. Since the internet wasn’t designed for everyone and everything to remain anonymous. In a way, anyone could intercept government transmission while they were being relayed and this was unacceptable. So in the mid-1990s researcher in 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 would need to get a message from point A to point B. In order to get that message to the end, you have to go through three midpoints, we will call them as aB and aC. The message is then wrapped in three layers of encryption. Each layer only knows where the message previously came from and where to send. Nothing else. SO the message or whatever data that was originally sent remains hidden, and each midpoint a layer of encryption is stripped and the new layer information tells where to send the message next.
Eventually, after travelling through all the points the final layers 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 see the data stored inside it.
Because of onion routing darknets like Tor can exist. Darknet alongside network like the internet require certain software to access.
Tor stands for The Onion Router. It’s a 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 requirement needed to access the dark web are enough to attract different types of users from all around the world. Link to the pages doesn’t look like (Medium.com), they don’t look familiar whatsoever. Instead, they tend to look like random strings of characters and also they don’t use (.com) they use (.onion). If you attempt to access these websites through the traditional web browser it’s not gonna work, but when using Tor it will.
An example URL of Tor Website (This site was taken down by FBI) — [silkroad6ownowfk.onion ] and [silkroad7rn2puhj.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.
This is the hidden wiki, it 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 are barely scratching the surface.
Just like on the surface web marketplace 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 purchse things from sites on the dark web here’s how you would do it.
Using traditional forms of payments 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 are in jail.
For these reasons virtual currency is king. This is where Bitcoin comes in. Due to bitcoins almost anonymous nature, it’s useful on these sites. Other cryptocurrencies are pivotal and running any anonymous marketplace create a Bitcoin wallet in exchange some of your cash for Bitcoin. You now have your anonymous currency to do almost whatever you want to do with it.
One of the first thing that comes 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 have ever dreamed of. Seller 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 the course of only two years, 2011 to 2013 Silk Road generated over 9.5 million 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 Road total revenue would amount to over 187 billion dollars in just two years.
Silk Road another dark web Margaret’s actually played a pretty big hand in the rise of Bitcoin. In 2011 with Silk Road was created Bitcoin was valued at less than a dollar, but because the dark web pretty much requires the 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.
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 so Crude 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 5 years in prison for creating the same exact 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 visited the dark web, if you didn’t even know it existed, it still affects you. It’s not uncommon to see data leaks and breacher 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 you 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 have 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. There are websites leaking the information of politicians, celebrities and even normal people and there’s not much you can really do about it, but even worse then this is that there are some even darker things that can be carried out on the dark web.
There are multiple hitmen services. Claiming to be able to kill almost anyone in the world you want for as little as $5,000. 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 will never know, but if you need one it’s there. Child pornography is, unfortunately, a larger part of this than I would 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 way 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 will find, but yet despite all of these things that exist on the dark web, roughly half of all the funding to Tors still comes from the United States government. Which is actually astounding when you consider the reputation that dark web has.
A lot of people that have been arrested and thrown in prison for illegal 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 the people you could see walking down the street, these are the 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 are a part of just by look at them.
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 two to ten thousand of these hidden services in 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 web sites only less than 6% of people who use Tor actually use these hidden services, that’s less than 120,000 people. And of the billions of people who use the Internet a hundred thousand use the dark web. Out of 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 darkness 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 is 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 any situation 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 new 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 put 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 are 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 in a positive way or a negative way it’s up to them. The drugs are sold on the dark web while mostly illegal can have some positive uses. If you are in a place where they aren’t sold you could purchase them there.
While the FBI and governments and much of the public believe 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 which brought opportunity to the masses and protects people as opposed to putting them at risk, but despite this, despite his apparent peaceful and non-harming nature, he was, one who actually used these hitmen services on the dark web in an attempt to have six 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 would say stay away from the dark web. Whether you believe it’s as bad as it’s made out to be. If this is the first time you’re reading about it, you probably don’t know what you are getting into and once you are in you aren’t leaving.