The Deep Web (The Dark Net)

Most of us know little or nothing regarding the Deep Web or the Dark Net, just two of the names for that area of the Internet that harbors the possibility of anonymity for its users or can enable search results for illegal drugs or pirated porn. However, there is an ever growing Deep Web/Dark Web community which has touched us in some shape or form. I am guessing here but has anyone won the lottery recently or been bequeathed a fortune and all you have to do is supply your details and whereabouts?

How did the Dark Web come about?

During 1995 at the University of Edinburgh, a teenager named Ian Clarke wrote a thesis for his computer science course proposing a revolutionary new way for people to use the Internet without detection. This project was called “Distributed, Decentralized Information Storage and Retrieval System”. The idea was that by downloading unique software (which was to be distributed free) anyone could chat online, share files, read or set up a website with almost complete anonymity.

Unfortunately the tutors were not too impressed, but this did not stop the student from going ahead with his project releasing the software called “Freenet” in 2000. Since then, millions of copies of Freenet have been downloaded, which remains readily available on several websites. Simply do a Google search for “Freenet download” to find it.

Entering the Realm of the Deep Net

Once the file has been downloaded, installation takes barely a couple of minutes and requires minimal computer skills. There you are a previously hidden online world where you can find resources such as “The Terrorist’s Handbook: A practical guide to explosives and other things of interest to terrorists”. Freenet is also the portal to accessing pirated­ copies of books, games, movies, music, software, TV series and much much more.

What started as a seemingly innocent project has today become a means for a plethora of online criminal activity from creating and sharing viruses to accessing and distributing child pornography all anonymously.

The Internet has always been associated with openness and is often labeled as the ultimate form of freedom where free speech, free access and lack of censorship have prevailed (just look at the internet society’s tagline “The Internet is for everyone”). Yet where do we draw the line when it is simply becoming easier and easier to engage in online criminal activity without been traced?

Putting it into perspective, the Dark Web has grown so fast that it is estimated to be at least 500 times larger than the surface web.

So what is the difference between the Deep Web and the Surface Web?

Simply put, the web is defined as a collection of hyperlinks that are indexed by search engines. In other words, the pages/content that appears when we do a Google search, is the Internet as we know it, this is called the surface web.

The Dark Web, also known as the deep web, invisible web, and dark net, consists of web pages and data that are beyond the reach of search engines. Some of what makes up the Deep Web consists of abandoned, inactive web pages, but the majority of data that lies within have been crafted to deliberately avoid detection in order to remain anonymous.

How deep is the Dark Net

The Internet has changed significantly over the years, but researchers are still only beginning the plunge to the depths of the Deep Web. The bottom line is that there is simply too much data available for any search engine to index the entire deep web.

Coupled with this issue is the deliberate use of invisible web space by individuals who do not want to be found. This is the origin of groups of criminals who sent out millions of spam e-mails suggesting that you have won the international lottery before quickly disconnecting. No matter what developments are made toward catching crooks they will always find new ways to remain hidden.

Is there any light down there?

It was never the intention to create a breeding ground for online criminals, which is sadly the predominant direction that the Deep Web seems to have taken.

There are secretive parts of the Internet that were specifically designed for secret services and law enforcement officers to surf questionable websites and services without leaving tell-tale tracks. Perhaps the domain of the dark net would make sense in oppressive regimes such as China­ where the government goes to extreme lengths to censor images that contain large expanses of supposedly naked flesh. It could certainly have a positive impact in countries such as Iran allowing people to rally support against oppressive governments without fear of being apprehended.

It is a worrying to think that due to the size and rapid growth of the Deep Web there is pretty much no way of stopping it. However, it may not be as bad as we all might think, but there is definitely a large enough criminal element to warrant concern.

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