By Kaye Foley
The Internet provides us with so much — social networks, information, cute cat videos — but is there more to it than meets the eye?
When you use a browser like Firefox or Google Chrome, you can find a lot. But you’re operating in the so-called “surface Web,” only scratching the, well, surface of what’s available online.
The rest is known as the “deep Web.” Most of what’s on there isn’t retrieved through a simple search, meaning these websites have privacy or security measures, archive or store too much information to be indexed, or have paywalls.
But deep within the deep Web is the “dark Web,” where data is encrypted and users are left anonymous.
The dark Web, or the “dark Net,” as it’s sometimes called, can be accessed by anyone with the right software, like the onion router, or TOR. The U.S. Naval Research Lab designed TOR in 1995. It became a way for the government, and other people, to safely share information online. Data is encrypted and sent through many servers, making it nearly impossible to trace online activity back to a person or a location. Only the intended recipient or those who know the right Web address can see it.
The dark Web developed a reputation for being a haven for illicit activity, like child pornography, drug trafficking, hackers for hire and terrorist recruitment. The encryption technology masks identities, making it harder for government agents to track criminals, but not impossible. Federal agents scour the dark Web looking for leads. One of the biggest arrests made was that of Ross Ulbricht, the creator of the notorious Silk Road — a black market with bitcoin as currency. In 2015, Ulbricht was convicted on seven accounts, including narcotics trafficking, and sentenced for life.
Proponents of the dark Web argue that it’s not all bad, saying it’s an outlet for people who are concerned about privacy and that it’s essential for dissidents and whistleblowers in repressive countries. It’s also a useful tool for journalists to protect their sources.
So whether you’ve ventured off the grid or not, when it comes to the dark Web, at least after watching this video, you can say, “Now I get it.”