Dark Web: The dark side of Internet
GUWAHATI: There is much more going on over the internet than what the eyes and the search results offer. We use internet every day, but most of our usage remains confined to Google, Facebook, YouTube, Reddit and such like. But that’s just the surface of the web that is visible to us. The World Wide Web is quite vast; the visible web or the surface web constitutes only 4% while the rest 96% is said to be formed by deep web and dark web.
What is dark web and deep web?
Surface web is anything that a search engine can access whereas deep web is anything that a standard search engine can’t access. Dark web is just a portion of the deep web.
Deep web contains information that you cannot access without the help of an URL or an address. For example, your friend has uploaded photos on Google Drive; even though the photos are on the web, you cannot access them unless the exact address of the drive on which the photos are is shared with you.
This is applicable to all the sites which are not listed on the search engines and may be accessed only when the owner invites the user to access.
Deep web may contain academic information, medical records, government resources, and other mundane personal information etc.
On the other hand, dark web is a section of deep web which can be only accessed with specialized browsers. One can use browsers like Tor and Freenet to explore dark web. Both the browsers disguise the IP address and keep one anonymous. Dark web is often linked with criminal activity and illegal market place.
How does it work?
One must have heard about the most conventional internet protocol HTTPS (hypertext transfer protocol secure). The surfing we usually do on the web is assisted by HTTPS. HTTPS is a protocol that encrypts information and transmits it from one destination to another. However, the encryption can always be tracked and hacked.
For accessing deep web, one needs “Onion” routing; in onion routing messages are condensed in layers of encryption, equivalent to layers of an onion. When the final layer is decrypted, the message arrives at the destination. That way the sender remains anonymous.
Based on this protocol, application like Tor has been created which claims to defend users from network surveillance and keeps the information flow unidentified.
How dark web lives up to its name of being notorious and grotesque
As dark web is anonymous, it is a breeding ground for illegal activities where there are several market places to exchange services in return for crypto currencies such as Bitcoin, Litecoin etc.
The famous market that came into being with the popularity of dark web was Silk Road, which was eventually shut down in 2013 giving rise to another market place called Atlantis.
Drugs, military grade weaponry, counterfeit documents and stolen artifacts are some of the products that are traded at these marketplaces. Interestingly, all of these get delivered right at your doorstep just like your conventional e-com sites.
Contract killers can be hired to take out targets within a very short period of time.
The dark web is home to hardcore pornography and has an active pedophilia community.
There are sites which stream live videos of victims getting tortured. They are described as Red Rooms where the viewer can request specific torturous acts to be performed on the victim in return for a definite price. However, services like these are said to be rumored and they are only featured in films and fictional stories. No records of it being actually available have been documented.
Who are using the Dark Web other than the criminals?
According to the reports, FBI ran the world’s biggest child pornography site on the dark net, going by the name operation Playpen. The motive was to track down pedophiles that use the website for streaming videos. There were some 137 people who were charged from this and close to 1500 IPs were recovered from the site.
Memex is being developed by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA), Government of USA. Memex is a search engine that will index and identify specific activity patterns on the dark web. It is basically the Google of the dark web. The purpose of Memex is to uncover crime by analyzing the patterns of advertisements that are posted on sites.
Governments use deep web to communicate and transfer intelligence inputs from one corner to the other corner of the world without revealingthe IP addresses. The messages cannot be intercepted and hence are considered to be safe.
Flicker of light in everything dark
Not all who use deep web are criminals, federal bodies or defense agencies. In today’s time of Big Brother where every move is surveyed and logged, people use deep web to communicate without the fear of getting tracked.
Individuals can share information and start movements against corrupt organizations, political parties, public offices, etc amongst each other by securing their digital identity.
In heavily censored countries like China and Iran, journalists exchange information without the fear of getting tracked and prosecuted.
Edward Snowden revealed NSA’s program PRISM, which was formed to collect private data of users from Google, Facebook and others and monitor their behavior. People who value their privacy online have started to shift from conventional surface web to dark web. It is reported that post revelation, there is an increase of TOR users by 75% in US and nearly double globally. For them, deep web is a tool which genuinely upholds the ‘right to privacy.’
So all you cool people on the web, as far as Indian Law is concerned, alone surfing on dark web is not illegal. You cannot be imprisoned just for hanging around there. You can use dark web for accessing research documents or initiating untraceable communication, but have to be careful about your digital imprints. You will find numerous tutorials, blogs that’ll guide you around the web.
However, users who have visited dark web purely out of curiosity, advise the first timers to stay away owing to the bad experiences they have had.