The billions of accessible websites on the internet today seem to be overwhelming for a common man. What’s more surprising is that these surface websites are about 7-10% of the entire internet. They make up the surface web. The bulk of the internet is hidden in what’s called the deep web, or in more depth, the dark web.
The visible World Wide Web with its billions of publicly accessible websites are those which appear on the search engines when searched through some keywords. These are accessed through web crawler, the meta search engine responsible for merging, interlinking and ranking search results of searching platforms on the surface web. It keeps track of all the websites and links to their webpages, found on the surface web and ranks them according to their content, hence organizing them into an index.
One step deeper into the ocean of internet lies the deep web. Websites on the deep web prevent indexing by search engines. Web crawlers are not allowed to access these websites or gather public links from them. These sites are either intentionally made inaccessible or are hidden due to their nature. Several methods are used to prevent their indexing. The linking of their webpages on surface websites or search engines is disabled by the owners, so they cannot be found through search engines. Access to them can also be denied technically, limiting access using captcha. These websites require a user to log in for accessing any page.
For example, large amount of content on PasteBin or GitHub with no links connecting to the source of information, are only accessed through specific search tools. Some other portals created for only specific people and accessed by their credentials only, are also examples of the deep web.
Just like the ocean hides mysteries in its depth, the internet hides hideous tales in the depths of the dark web. The dark web is entirely a mystery with every user being anonymous.
Coming to the actual definition, the Dark Web or Dark nets are highly encrypted networks built on top of the internet and can only be accessed by specialized software. The websites on the Dark web cannot be accessed by common people surfing the surface web.
These unindexed sites are called dark because all of their users are anonymous. This dark web is the most popular platform for supporting illegal activities.
The most well-known example of illegal activity in the dark web is that of the creation of Silk Road by Ross William Ulbricht, known as dread pirate Roberts. Silk road generated $1.2 billion in 2 years and 9 months, mostly by selling illegal drugs along with other illegal activity. It was later dismantled by the federal government of USA in sept. 2013. In the same year, the usership of The Onion Router, the most common network on the dark web, reached 4 million people worldwide.
These websites are either present on the private networks like Tor (The onion router) or on the peer-to-peer networks like the Invisible Internet Project (I2P) which can be accessed in web browsers as well. The dark web routes traffic over the network with layers of encryption to preserve anonymity of its users.
The dark web is not accessible for a common man. It requires access to a private network to access the dark web. The dark web enforces many restrictions to maintain privacy of its users.
The Onion Router browser first created by the US Navy is one of the most popular browsers used on the dark web to browse anonymously.
This highly secure, easy to use, free software is installed in minutes and routes the network traffic through various Tor servers located globally. This means that if any information packet is intercepted during transmission, it’ll only show sender and receiver as random nodes.
Therefore, the dark web looks like a highly charged galaxy of mobile nodes. This routing node mechanism makes it impossible to trace a user’s activity on the dark web.
Many sites from the dark web have a top-level domain (TLD), ending at ‘.onion’ rather than the surface web domains like ‘.com’, ‘.org’ or ‘.gov’. These top-level domains can only be accessed with browsers or apps running on the Tor network, like Orbot or Orfox mobile apps.
Darknets allow access or penetration in different ways, based on the purpose of their use, like communication or anonymous browsing. They’re also differentiated by their level of security, depending on the encryption protocols and the routing they use.
Friend-to-friend is a form of peer-to-peer service, which is accessible by a specific ring of IP addresses. Other IPs can be blocked by the owners to hide their presence on the network.
F2F network has enhanced security, having every exchange on the network encrypted with extra preventive layers of coding.
Internet is a flow of information, a huge amount of which is personal information. The surface internet is evolving swiftly. Compared to the size of surface web, the deep web is huge.
The information flowing through the surface web is often attacked, stolen and sold. Medical Records, IDs, photographs, passports, credit cards Credentials, subscription accounts, browsing history, bank account details, everything is being sold in the dark web.
Who buys this information? Umm, it’s hard to tell. Hackers, scammers, marketers, competitors. Anyone.
Darknet serves as host to this black market of information. Stolen information is sold and bought there anonymously. Dark web serves as the Easy marketplace to find the right customers for any kind of information.
This is one of the reasons why Cryptocurrencies were readily adopted for illegal transactions, because they hide identities.
Many researchers dived into the depths to seek information regarding the activities going on in the dark web. 6,608 dark websites were crawled in January 2018, including all types of webpages from entertaining to horrifying, and this is what they found.
The dark web deals with all kinds of scams and illicit content. From credit card cloning products to genius bitcoin scams, everything is available for purchase on the dark web, every passing second. Highly disturbing number of child abuse sites and extreme immoral websites were found on the dark web selling private photos and sexual content.
The Dark web has the monopoly of breaching private information of organizations. Therefore, organizations have been paying large amounts of money to safeguard their leaked information found on the dark web. The number of breaches has gone down whereas the damages caused by each data breach have significantly gone up. In 2017, organizations paid up to $140 for saving each record from violation and misuse.
However, the information sold on dark web is not guaranteed to be legitimate. So, it can be falsely crafted to ruin reputations of organizations. Vendors of the information are rated by buyers to establish some level of credibility regarding what they bring to the table for selling.
The usage of The Onion Router for accessing the Dark Web cannot be marked with a geography. No country can be singled out as being responsible for the existence of the Dark web. However, as per the statistics of 2017:
The commonly known websites available through search engines on the internet are called the surface web. These sites make up only 7% of the entire World Wide Web. The rest of the Internet is a highly encrypted world unavailable for general browsing, called the deep web. A concrete part of this web is used for illegal activities and is thus called the Dark web. The Dark web offers absolute anonymity to all of its users. All kinds of sensitive information, malicious software, and illegal content is sold and bought on the dark web. While crafting security strategies, most organizations are unaware of the existence of the dark net. It’s important to consider this huge internet world as a threat factor while strategizing for mitigation of threat factors.