The Internet has become the most important thing these days, in today’s world we are highly dependent on the internet. From sending documents to visit a particular location. From text messages to investments in the stock market. The internet is ruling all over the world, it is the strongest medium in connecting people at a global level.
The dark web is known as the epicenter of illegal online activities. A vast, secret cyber underworld for buying drugs, weapons, or anything that is something. We haven’t imagined that can be available on the internet. This subterranean realm is sinister and untraceable with life-threatening consequences.
We all are familiar with the term silk road or at least its history. On the dark web it an online marketplace. Where people could buy narcotics with absolute anonymity but it is part of something much bigger.
The deep web makes up 90% of the entire web, through our daily lives search on the internet. We only see the tip of the iceberg.
Part one-The basics
For beginners, let’s look at the basics. The web can be defined into three categories.
- The surface web or clear web:
In the surface web, everything is open and available, basically, everything which can be found through a google search.
- The deep web: This is that portion of the internet that is hidden from conventional search engines and contains unindexed websites. In the deep web, people can find personal information like payroll, medical records, or corporation’s private data.
- The dark web: Here sites are intentionally hidden from the search engines. Sites in the dark web can only be accessed through special browsers. That uses masked IP addresses to hide the identity of the visitors.
In 1969 a couple of university students sent the world’s first computer to computer message on ARPANET. ARPANET was an early ancestor to the internet. The concept of connecting computers together was a radical idea at the time and certainly moved the progression to the modern internet but whenever there has been an internet or any form of internet, it has been used for illegal activities. In fact, one of the first-ever e-commerce transaction was a drug deal in 1970. And was done between students of MIT and Stanford.
In 1980, people also attempted to create data havens in small countries with flexible laws. These examples were nowhere near the Modern dark web. However, they illustrate the fact that there have always been people. Who wanted to use the web to escape the eyes of the authority or from everyone.
In 1991, things got more interesting when TOR was created. TOR means the Onion Router is a browser. Which allows users to exchange information anonymously online, peer-peer networks like TOR are the backbone of the Dark Web. The dark web needs anonymity for its existence for managing by hiding the identity of the user by bouncing the connection through three different servers around the world and adding a layer of encryption each time hence the name Onion.
It can be assumed that TOR was invented by a group of anti-establishment coders and criminals trying to evade government controls by looking at illegal activity on the dark web.
However, some researchers also said that Tor was invented by the US Naval Research Laboratory to allow the intelligence personnel to deliver the information securely.
Another Agency of the US Department of Defence which is known as DARPA developed the TOR in 2002. They made it available to the public, to this day TOR is still funded by the US government.
Well, this raises the question that why the government still funds and allows access to the general public of TOR?
This is because it makes it difficult for anyone to decide which information on the dark web is created by the intelligence officers. It is easy to be anonymous in the sea of anonymous users.
It is also important that without TOR the existence of Darknet will be there, TOR is just a dark web browser and there are many dark web browsers, it’s like if the google chrome got shut down there will be no effect on the usage of the internet.
In 2014, Dr. Gareth oven has given a breakdown of the sites on the dark web by classification that drug marketplaces are the most popular on the dark web followed by other marketplaces like fraud, bitcoins which are commonly used for money laundering.
If we dig a little deeper inside the dark web we will come to know that it is huge and it is growing at a massive rate. In 2001, a study was done by the University of California that the Dark web contains 7.5 petabytes or 7500 gigabytes of information and in two years it contains 91000 petabytes of information.
Today, the deep and dark web is over 96% of the entire web, 60 largest deep web websites collectively exceed the size of the entire surface web by 40 times, it means when an individual is searching something on the internet, he or she is looking at just 0.03% of the entire internet
The dark web is such a nefarious place that we can get scams based around murder, in a case people kept falling for an elaborate scam to hire a hitman for murder. A website named Besa Mafia claim to offer the toughest Albanian hitman services but in reality, there were two eastern European men tricking people in handling their money to pay for hit jobs which don’t happen eventually, after getting the initial payments from the customers the fraudsters often strung customers and they keep on lying to them and making up stories about why the killing has not happened yet. They also started a fake moral panic by creating false campaign groups and petitions calling for the best mafia website to be shut down. This is a convoluted effort to make it look legitimate.
An individual can find AK-47 to rocket launcher if that person looks hard enough, it has also been seen that criminals selling fake degrees certifications and passports, people have also hired hackers to break into university systems just to change their grades.
Stolen identities and passwords are available on the Dark web costs around 160 dollars and full identity of about 1,200 dollars. There is also a hidden Wikipedia that shows an article that is immune to censorship.
One of the most infamous websites on the dark web is the marketplace Silk road. This title comes from an ancient trade route network that connects Europe with Asia Africa and the middle east. The name was used by Ross Albrecht in 2011. When he set up the first silk road marketplace under the alias Dread Pirate Roberts. On this website, many things can be purchased via Bitcoin but the most common thing here is illicit drugs and fraudulent documentation such as passports. Wellbeing untraceable Bitcoin act as an instrument I allowing silk road and other marketplaces to run effectively.
Ross Ulbricht was arrested in 2013 and charged in a high profile case with money laundering. Computer hacking conspiracy to traffic narcotics, and arranging hitman to murder six people. However, he was not prosecuted for an attempt to murder charges. He was sentenced to double life imprisonment plus 40 years without parole.
Approximately 170,000 bitcoins were seized by the government of the united states from silk road and Ulbricht personal account, at that time. It was roughly a hundred million US dollars. If it would have been sold at its hike in 2017 it would be worth around 2.8 billion dollars. There’s another argument that the site reduces the violence in the society silk road provided a way to sell the narcotics without the violence created by cartels gangs or drug dealers.
New versions of silk roads keep reappearing on the dark web as when there will be a demand there will always be new silk roads.