The deep, or hidden, or dark web pops up regularly in the news media. Stories covering drug trading, extreme pornography, and leaked information—particularly Julian Assange and Edward Snowden—are routinely reported. More recent reports have revolved around the illegal weapons trading used to arm ISIS terrorists in Europe.
In other words, when reported, it is almost exclusively presented in a negative light, a hive of illegal activity and a place that could best be described as, ’the dark underbelly of the internet’.
But is it really that bad? And, what is actually hidden away in the deep web?
To begin to explain what it is, it must be illustrated that it represents most of the internet. The most significant study—in 2001—estimated it to be more than 550 times that of the searchable web. Newer estimates suggest that it is more than 99% of what is on the internet.
In short, 99% of the internet is not evil. In fact, 99% of the 99% is not evil.
Beyond Google: The Deep Web
In its simplest definition, the deep web is all that is not indexed by search engines. Google, Bing, or Yahoo can not pick these sites up in their searches because the site’s information has not been appropriately databased.
This indexed segment of the internet is often identified as the surface web, and it is where almost all of our typical internet activity takes place.
The deep web begins when you look beyond the traditional search engines to tailor-made database searches.
This will lead you to the type of content that makes up a majority of the web. Large archives containing; research information, scholarly documents, libraries, government and legal databases, torrents, stats and forums. A lot of these sites could be indexed, others are partially indexed, and some can not be, but they are not completely hidden.
Going Anonymous: The Dark Web
Where the focus of news attention exists is in the anonymity platforms that exist within the deep web that is often descried as the dark web, or the parts of the internet that can not be accessed, or should not be accessed without special tools.
Again, not all this information is illegal. It is here that you will find secure whistleblower sites and other confidential information relayed by the media, business, activist and even military and law enforcement.
In fact, the popular Tor browser, which provides anonymity by relaying traffic through a world wide network of routers, was principally developed by the U.S. navy with the purpose of protecting U.S. intelligence.
This is where the infamous black marketplaces like Silk Road and Euroarms are found. It is also where you can hire a hitman, get results of illegal experiments, find information on fixed football matches, securely release malware… so on and so forth.
Despite being only a very small fraction of what exits within the dark web, over 80% of visitors are there accessing abusive sexual content (video below)
Unfortunately, this stat probably best reflects of use of the deep web as a whole. Despite the wealth of information available, it is into these hidden caverns where a majority of users tend to gravitate, and this certainly does not help the cause of people looking to promote its positives. On top of that, this misuse threatens the future of secure anonymous browsing.
The deep web—including the dark web—is not ‘bad’. It is simply part of a tool for the transference of information the internet makes available. The only difference between it and the surface is to get there, and when you are there, your really need to know what you are doing.
*For more on how use the resources in deep web, look here