As soon as people hear the word hacking, the first question I’m always asked is “do you know about the dark web?” In their minds, the dark web is this secretive place where all kinds of illegal and distasteful activities go on, much like a Republican convention or the kitchen at Denny’s.
Thanks to our wonderful media, the terms relating to the unseen Internet have been confused, misused, and abused, just like Justin Bieber.
So Uncle Steve is going to set you straight. Here’s a little intel on the Internet:
The Internet that you see everyday- the one that you use to buy songs on iTunes, look up your posted grades from college, or spend a quiet night looking at clown porn- that’s the surface web.
The term surface web refers to websites that want to be found. You already know you can search for goods or services by simply going to Yahoo! or Google. If you know the name of the website, you can go there directly. And you can even type the IP address if you’re so inclined.
In simple terms, the surface web is the portion of the Internet that is indexed.
Now, like everything in nature, there is an opposite – a yin and yang, if you will.
If you have dark, you have light.
If you have hot, you have cold.
If you have The Big Bang Theory, you have Pretty Little Liars.
Everything is in balance.
So, if you have a portion of the Internet that is fully indexed and locatable, there must be a portion that is not easily located. And there is. And it’s huge. It’s MUCH bigger than the Internet that you’re used to. It’s called the deep web.
The deep web is a part of the Internet that is not indexed. Sites are much harder to find. It’s not illegal, and it’s used every day for legitimate purposes.
For example, a university on the west coast might be studying stem cells, and they want to share their info and data with another university on the east coast. They do this by creating a website or location that is not indexed. There are ways to inform Google or Yahoo! to leave the site alone and skip over it. And that’s what happens here. The only people who can access the stem cell site are the people at the universities who have a need to.
And the same thing happens with the military, governments, and thousands of companies every day. It’s perfectly legal. It’s done with the same browsers and software that everyone else uses to access the surface web. And like Nicholas Cage, there’s nothing weird or illegal about it.
Internet researchers estimate that the deep web is about 250 times larger than the surface web. That’s a lot of data. So when you surf the Internet, you’re only seeing a small portion of what’s really out there. The tip of the iceberg, so to speak.
Then of course, there’s the dark web (cue Darth Vader music).
That’s where the illegal and nasty stuff goes on.
The dark web and the deep web are not the same thing.
The dark web is a small portion of the deep web. And unlike the deep web or the surface web, you can’t get to it using everyday software. It’s built differently. It uses different protocols (computer languages) and ports (access points). You can’t just fire up Internet Explorer and browse the dark web. It is deliberately difficult to find and to access. The software can hide your IP address. It can make someone in the United States appear to be located in Asia. Plus, many of these sites aren’t up 24 hours-a-day, so if you go searching for them at the wrong time, you’ll never find them. That’s why the authorities have such a hard time closing them down.
Here are a few screenshots (click to enlarge):
When you hear about hacks where credit card information is stolen, it usually ends up here. When you hear about buying drugs or illegal weapons, it’s usually here. When you hear about the hacking group Anonymous, they usually hang out here. Because this portion of the web is so different, law enforcement can’t find their way around it.
But law enforcement is learning. The FBI and Interpol now teach about the dark web as part of their normal curriculum.
My suggestion- stay off the dark web.
If you need to buy pharmaceutical grade narcotics, just purchase them at the local high school like everyone else.