Welcome to our first week in Dark Web Diving! Last week I briefly touched on what the deep and dark web are, but this week we’re going to dive a little further to better understand the two terms.
The Deep Web
Although the phrase “Deep Web” is thought to be mysterious and ominous, the reality is we all use it every day – which is what separates it, in part, from the dark web.
Every time you access a direct message, email, upload a photo and set it to private, log into your bank account, or even use your office computer you are accessing the Deep web. Anything you have to pay to access, that lies behind a password, or frequently moves on the internet is actually a part of this large and considered ominous world.
The deep web also houses a plethora of information – government data, scientific processes, intel from various databases, etc. but in itself, it is not the illicit playground we’ve all heard of.
The Dark Web
Hiding within the deep web, lies the dark web, less that 0.01% of the internet. The content here cannot be found through a search engine or even through traditional browsers. Studies have shown that over half of the available websites lurking here are riddled with illegal content- drug markets, guns, illicit pornography, hitmen, and other nefarious services.
The FBI and CIA work extensively to shut these websites down and arrest their creators, but the key to the Dark Web is anonymity which makes it increasingly difficult to find criminal locations, names, and keep the website down for good. For every dark web site that is shut down, a dozen more pop up in its place.
It was originally created in the sixties by the US government who’s goal was to better network their computer systems, but it was ultimately hijacked by criminals and terrorists alike.
I find many people question that if the dark web has existed for so long how are people becoming aware of it in just the last few years. The answer is simple. In 2013, the most popular Dark Web Market, The Silk Road, was seized and shut down. News of the creator’s arrest quickly spread throughout the world. Most law abiding people were unaware of the criminal activity hiding just below their everyday internet use and began to become frightened of what else could be lurking. From there, people began attempting to access it -out of curiosity, their desire for illicit activities, or even just to convince themselves it did exist.
Accessing and browsing The Dark Web is not illegal in most countries, but almost every service you find is illegal. So, what need would a lawful person have to access it? Again, anonymity. If half of the available sites have illegal content and services, it goes without saying that the other half is seemingly innocuous. A plethora of people use The Dark web to browse mirrored websites from the clearnet. These websites function the same as ones we use every day -Facebook, Email, Twitter- but their content can not be traced. It is also the ideal platform to share controversial ideas anonymously without fear of judgment.
Even though there are perfectly acceptable reasons to be on the Dark Web, it is also a dangerous endeavor to browse aimlessly. Hackers are constantly setting up unstable websites to capture information from unsuspecting persons. The clearnet is full of horror stories of people who have had information stolen through the Dark Web and had their entire lives destroyed or have even been sought out by nefarious criminals. Furthermore, if one is not careful, they are likely to come across websites that are filled with gut wrenching content.
Finally, if the Dark Web is so bad why doesn’t the government just shut it down? Unfortunately, it is not that simple. The Dark Web, though small, is very diverse and spread out. The only way to ensure it’s end would be to end the internet entirely. Instead, The Dark Web is closely monitored by the government and people like me have set out to eliminate the mystery that leads people to it in the first place.
What’s The Point Of This Series?
First and foremost this series is to help eliminate curiosity about the Dark Web. As humans, we are naturally curious beings, but in this case that curiosity can often lead to trouble. My goal is to reveal, within reason, what is obscured in a safe environment on the clearnet. Like many other people who have set out of this adventure, I will be reporting any websites I come across with illicit activities to the authorities. From here, I warn you some of the content may be heavy, but I hope it will educate people and prevent them from stepping into this world and risking their information, integrity, or worse. I will not show prices for illicit activities or pictures of pornography, murder, rape, etc. I will also not be giving out weblinks or explaining how to access the Dark Web for all of the reasons described above. I do not condone these activities, the criminals who head them, or the people who partake in them.
What I Found This Week!
This week I will only be sharing one site I came across due to the lengthy introduction. However, next week and the weeks following I will be sharing three or more sites and explaining them. Prepare yourselves, Fiends. We’re entering criminal territory.
1. Red Rooms
The first site I stumbled across in our journey was a “Red Room”. Typically, these “rooms” are videos you pay to access in which someone kills themselves or someone else live. Spectators watch while grandmasters control the event usually via a chat or other means of communication. While the vast majority of sites like this are simply means to scam criminals out of money, there have been many reports of actual red rooms that have been shut down, or that skeptical Dark Web tourists have stumbled across. In my adventure, I found nearly 20 Red Rooms without having to do any sort of digging. In my experience, there are likely many more.
As with most services on the Deep/Dark web, Bitcoin is the only accepted currency for Red Rooms. Bitcoin is a form of cryptocurrency that has become increasingly popular due to the fact that it operates outside of a system of central banking. To learn more about Bitcoin and other cryptocurrency check out this wonderfully informative post by GEFNET, our friendly neighborhood geek: How To: Cryptocurrency
That’s all for this week’s dive, Fiends!