Delving into the Deep Web

Ruby Gould, Print Managing Editor

The Deep Web

The darknet is a category that falls within the larger category of the deep web, which refers to any web page that is not indexed by a search engine. This means that search engines like Google, Yahoo, or Bing cannot access pages that fall within the deep web. However, pages don’t necessarily exclude themselves from the World Wide Web for particularly suspicious reasons. Often times, certain web pages require information such as a username and password to get past the first page, or they may have a special programming file that interacts with web browsing spiders in order to prevent them from showing up in searches.

“Every day we learn about new websites to a point where we think there is a seemingly endless amount of websites available to us on the surface. What we don’t realize is that there is an entirely different realm called the darknet that actually accounts for 85 percent of the total internet,” Colin Adams ’19, a student consultant at the Tech Desk, said.

The Darknet

The darknet is a special sector of the internet that is a subset of the deep web. Although special software is needed for access, the darknet runs entirely on normal internet connections and HTML addresses, which is perhaps the biggest misconception surrounding it. It is not by any means inaccessible to regular citizens. The darknet is often associated with highly illegal activity, which, for the most part, is true. However, TOR, which is the most common software used to access websites, was not originally developed for this reason.

TOR and TOR Services

TOR, an acronym for “The Onion Router,” is a software program that is most often associated with accessing the darknet, which presents a metaphorical representation of the many layers of encryption the software provides to its users. Another, less frequented option is Freenet, which encompasses the same idea: providing an access point of complete and total anonymity to the darknet.

According to Digital Trends, TOR was originally developed to route the information of a user to multiple (meaning up to hundreds of) computers within the TOR network in the interest of maintaining anonymity on the web. This means that, theoretically, if a user in China were to try and access Facebook (a nationally forbidden site) through TOR, their information would be routed along an untraceable line of many different TOR connections, essentially burying the search information of that user in a messy net of information, making it nearly impossible to extract.

TOR services, however, is a newer development of an opposing concept: rather than routing one’s information through a search, anyone can develop a site using a TOR service address and have site visitors redirected through TOR systems to that site. In this sense, any site developed through TOR services has the capacity to keep website agents anonymous by filtering through visitors before they even reach the IP service address.

Illegal activities

The darknet is often said to be a hub for many different illegal activities, such as the sale of drugs, transplantable organs, counterfeit money, or even people through human trafficking rings, according to Popular Science Magazine. The aspects of TOR that enable such highly immoral and illegal vendors to persist in the age of the internet is the overarching concept of the maintenance of anonymity at all costs. So long as the anonymity of criminals is encrypted through countless layers of virtual barriers, they will be incredibly difficult to track down. Additionally, the use of bitcoin, which is a virtually encrypted form of currency used in many trade deals on the darknet, prevents any personal information of the vendor or buyer from exposure.

“The allure of the darknet is, of course, the forbidden nature, and being unknown and mysterious. But the darknet is filled with nefarious actors and three letter agencies, and one misstep can have significant consequences financially, legally, and on one’s future career,” Chris Bernard, the University’s Chief Information Security Officer, said.

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