The World Wide Web… Home to over a billion websites that offer you everything from online shopping to instant banking. The problem with that statistic? It only accounts for 3-5% of the total amount of websites in the world. The rest is the deep web.
The Deep, The Dark and The Ugly of the Internet
As users of the “Surface Web”, we make use of the internet daily to perform a wide variety of tasks. Most of us are on some sort of social network or use the internet to control devices in our home. But what about the sites that we don’t see? What about the sites that Google cannot even find? These are the sites of the deep web – a place where only the bravest of people go. Interested? Today we’ll be giving you a look around.
So what is the deep web?
Imagine, if you will, that you are a government official in the 21st century, working for the military. You want to create a portal where you can share sensitive information with a lot of people. The problem? You don’t want your website visible to just anyone on the internet. This is how the deep web was born. In a nutshell, the deep web is a group of websites that is invisible to normal users on the internet. This is mostly because you need a special program, called the Tor Browser, to access these sites. The benefits of using this extra router are not just that websites cannot be indexed (i.e Google can’t find them), but you are also completely anonymous while using it.
Followed By The Birth of The Dark Web
It is for those reasons that the deep web also gave birth to the “dark web”. The dark web started when a group of criminals saw the benefits of anonymity in the dark web and used it to their advantage by using the web for illegal purposes. It wasn’t long before you could buy anything on the deep web, from illegal firearms to trafficked children. Although it’s been 10 years since the deep web was found, law enforcement is yet to make any massive impact in order to stop all the illegal activity taking place on it. With the exception of the arrest of the owner of a massive dark website in 2013, most of the deep web is still unexplored and undisturbed. Even the aforementioned site was soon resurrected with new owners and now continue to sell illegal merchandise on this site, named “The Silk Road”.
The Creation of Bitcoins
One should also keep in mind that with the creation of these illegal sites, rose a need to make and receive payments. Of course, you wouldn’t use your personal credit card to buy a counterfeit passport or nuclear weapons! In fact, banks couldn’t play any role in these transactions, mostly because they keep records and charge ridiculous fees. So in 2009, a man named Satoshi Nakamoto invented The Bitcoin. A virtual, untraceable, cryptography-based currency was exactly what the dark web needed. Because the bitcoin was not regulated by any bank or institution, it became the currency of choice for illegal and even legal uses on the deep web. Since the launch of the bitcoin, its value increased extremely rapidly and a single Bitcoin bought for less than a Rand in 2009 is now worth more than R23 000.
Exploring Illegal Activity on the Dark Web
Even though illegal sites are extremely difficult to find, there are ways to track them down. The Hidden Wiki is one way. The hidden wiki is a community-driven project where users can add links to popular deep web sites. Before continuing, it is important to mention that the dark web remains a dangerous place. For this reason, it is important that you never visit the dark web unless you know exactly what you’re doing. Although we won’t have time to go through every single site on the wiki, let’s look at a few of the popular:
Not everybody accepts Bitcoins for payments. So the best thing to do when paying for stuff in the clear world? Buy a prepaid ATM card! These cards contain nothing but cash. If prepaid cards are too casual though, you can also buy stolen credit cards for a set amount of money, gambling with the amount of money on them!
Although the name says it all, this site also includes a drivers license and birth certificate, for $3 500.
As we mentioned earlier, the deep web is also home to the whistleblowing site, Wikileaks.
Although we just showed you 3 examples, it is critical to understand that there are millions more legal and illegal sites. Most of these sites are abandoned, while others are only available to a handful of people.
Anonymity creates Anonymous
While the deep web also provides anonymity at a low price, it also enabled users to communicate anonymously on various forums and chatrooms. This benefit leads to secret organisations, like the Illuminati, to grow quickly in size. The Illuminati also isn’t the only extremist group that found pleasure in the shadows. Multiple ISIS and other violent communities also started using the deep web. This lead to the deep web needing a hero. People who use the web to fight against extremist societies who use it to their advantages are needed.
This was the beginning of a well-known “hacktivist” group, called Anonymous. More of these groups pop up every day and there have been thousands of reports on the impact that these groups make. Firstly Anonymous quickly showed power through taking down or attacking sites that are against their beliefs. Governments and other “fraudulent” organisations are now attacked by these groups too.
The Future of The Deep Web
With all of the above benefits and drawbacks seen, it is worth asking what its future looks like. From a technical perspective, we see the deep web like the internet: practically unstoppable. For this reason more and more IT professionals are increasing their knowledge of and experience with the deep web. And while this might create more threats in our everyday world, we have to realise that it also creates more opportunities.
ITFirst takes computer– and network security very seriously. If you suspect that you are a victim of hacking or you’d like to get your company’s security systems tested, please contact us. Users are encouraged never to perform illegal activities online. ITFirst PTY Ltd will take no responsibility for any damage caused by the publishing or distribution of this article.