What is the Deep Web? What is the Dark Web? These are questions that tend to arise when we hear the term in many popular spy movies and TV shows today. It is a term that is used to describe a collection of websites that are visible but are very masterfully hidden from the general public. Most of these websites hide their IP addresses, which makes it impossible to identify who is behind the screen.
These websites can’t be accessed via your standard browsers like Chrome and Firefox. These websites are not indexed on Google or Yahoo either. Some of these websites are useful and some I would not dare visit again. You can buy anything illegal from many of these websites; you can buy a gun or a kilo of marijuana from Mexico. You can hire a hitman or even buy yourself a fake identity. The Deep Web is a murky place and I happened to explore it at length to find out what the fuck goes on in there.How Does it Work?
Almost every website in the Dark Web uses an encryption tool called TOR. It also acts as a browser and many of these websites have a .tor domain, something you cannot access through any regular browser. Tor or Onion Routing is free software that was developed by the United States Naval Research Lab for anonymous communication. The reason why it is also known as Onion routing is because the Internet is much like an onion and has many layers.
The internet that we know of consists of 8 billion websites from all over the world, and what’s shocking to know is that traffic to websites like Facebook, Google, Amazon and any other page that uses HTTPS or .com as a domain, only contributes to only 4% of web content on the internet. These websites are only on the ‘surface web’. 96% of the digital universe is predominantly present in the deep web. These websites are protected by passwords and cannot be traced to their owners.
Not all Dark Websites in the Deep Web use TOR encryption. Some websites like the all-new Silk Road Reloaded use a similar service called I2P. Silk Road was (maybe still is) a website for purchasing and selling recreational drugs. Silk Road was the first modern black market website that caught too much heat and the owner was arrested and was incarcerated recently. We will be talking about online marketplaces in the Deep Web a bit later.Is it the Deep Web or The Dark Web?
You might think the terms are co-related but these terms tend to be different in definition. They don’t mean the same thing, as Deep Web is a term used for ALL websites that are present in the network including ‘Dark Web’ sites. Deep Web consists of all sorts of data which is boring and present for mundane reasons.
However, it is exciting and scary to talk about Dark Websites in general.What Is The Dark Web And What The Hell Is Going On In There?
The Dark web is a part of the Deep Web and it requires specialised tools and equipment to access. These websites are deep underground and the owners of the websites have very good reason to keep their content hidden.
Because of its nature, we cannot possibly fathom or determine how many websites actually exist with malicious content, but as I was researching the Deep Web, I came across some horrific websites that I would like to elaborate on.Online Black Market Marketplaces
The most visited websites in the Deep Web are mostly marketplaces that sell illegal drugs, pharmaceutical products and even pirated games. According to Trend Micro, an internet security firm, the user base that visits these websites normally like to buy and sell the following drugs:
The deep web provides a platform for anonymity and that is the best motivation for people to engage in illegal activities. There is a cybercriminal underground and these activities can have drastic effects in the real world. Recently, the founder of Silk Road, Ross William Ulbricht, or better known as Dread Pirate Roberts, was accused of money laundering, murder for hire, computer hacking, conspiracy to traffic fraudulent identities and conspiracy to traffic narcotics. You might be asking why? That’s because his website ‘Silk Road’ enabled people to sell all of these services. Think of Silk Road as the Amazon of illegal substances and services.
The availability of illegal drugs is easily accessible and varies a lot on the Deep Web. Many of these websites sell cocaine, cannabis, and psychedelics amongst others.
There’s even a search engine called ‘Grams’ that indexes and allows people to easily search Deep Web sites that sell illegal drugs. Hell, they even mimicked the Google logo to set themselves apart from other competing websites.Money Laundering and Counterfeiting
In the Deep Web, you never use your regular credit card or your debit card to buy stuff. Hell, you don’t even use PayPal for these services. A virtual currency called ‘Bitcoin’ is the dominant mode of payment and it is a currency designed keeping anonymity in mind. It is the ideal currency for illegal activities which is outside of the control of traditional banks and governments.
There are services available on the Deep web which makes it even harder for authorities to track your Bitcoin transactions. These services mix your Bitcoins through spidey networks and return them to you. Of course, they charge a small processing fee but this way it remains impossible to track.
Bitcoins can be exchanged for real cash; however, there is a wide availability of fraudulent currency on the Deep Web. This counterfeit cash is available to buy in bulk or per order basis. They are almost identical to the real thing and are made of 100% Cotton Linen Paper, which is used in most paper money today. These bills even have the appropriate watermark to make them look legit and can also fool any infrared checker that you commonly see in Bank today. Most of these bills can be detected by an infrared scanner but that does not prevent people from buying or selling it. These websites offer $20 Bills for half the price and other websites also offer Euros and Yen.Guns
According to research by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), the most popular item sold on the dark web are illegal drugs. MDMA and Marijuana are the most popular item sold, however, the sale of guns and other forms of weapons are catching up. There is a dedicated website called The Armory, where users can buy all kinds of illegal firearms and explosives. And get this...they ship it all over the world!
These sites have made it hard for authorities to effectively monitor them and it seems like the situation is not going to get better anytime soon.Passports and Citizenships
Owning an American or an EU passport is one of the most valuable assets when it comes to travel and citizenship benefits. Being an American or an EU citizen certainly has its perks. They act not only as a document that will let you cross borders but one can open bank accounts, apply for loans, purchase property and even get state benefits if you are a citizen of a specific country. Unique documents like Passports and other powerful documents are faked and sold on the dark web. There are plenty of websites that claim to sell identical passports and driver licenses. They vary in price from country to country.
In fact, the founder of Silk Road, Dread Pirate Roberts, was caught because he ordered dozens of Fake IDs on the deep web in order to hide his identity from the FBI. These fake IDs were caught by the FBI and showed how extensive and accurate some of these documents can be.Child Pornography
I am not even going to dignify this topic with a full blown paragraph, since it is simply inhumane and disgusting even talking about this. Child pornography is present in stupendous quantity and it needs to stop right now. Just make sure you don’t click on that Twitter logo if you ever decide to explore the dark web.
The Deep Web was invented with the sole purpose of fulfilling the genuine need of freedom and anonymity. It’s used by Governments to communicate with each other during a crisis, and journalists use it to leak documents that wouldn’t normally be available on the surface web. Civilians used it during the Egyptian crisis and it denotes that the Deep Web has far more use for good than evil.
Cybercrime has emerged to be the dominant form of usage for users from across the globe. It is the platform for obscurity and protection these cybercriminals need in order to operate. It gives them an edge over law and order and they have been polluting a space that might be the future of anonymity in due time.
We here at Mensxp pay no heed to the Dark Web and we do not endorse or encourage you to start taking part in any illegal activity or immoral behaviour.
1. The Tor Project, Inc. Tor Project. Last accessed on 21 October 2016
2. Vincenzo Ciancaglini, Marco Balduzzi, Max Goncharov, and Robert McArdle. Trend Micro Security Intelligence. “Deep Web and Cybercrime: It’s Not All About Tor.”
3. Kate Vinton. (30 May 2015). Forbes. “Silk Road CreaTORRoss Ulbricht Sentenced to Life in Prison.”
4. Matt Egan, (28th April 2016), PC Advisor, “What is the Dark Web? How to access the Dark Web. What's the difference between the Dark Web and the Deep Web?”
5. Jacob Thankachen, Wired, “Deep Web: The Proverbial Safe House for Cybercriminals”