We are all very familiar with using the Surface Internet. Basically, that’s everything that has been indexed by search engines – Google, Bing and Yahoo; the content of the surface internet is accessible by usual browsers – Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, Opera, etc.
However, underneath the surface of the regular internet, there is something called Deep Web.
Content of the Deep Web isn’t indexed by search engines and cannot be accessed using most common web browsers.
How big is the Deep Web?
Well, believe it or not, it is estimated that it occupies around 96% of the entire internet! In plain English, regular Internet users can access only 4% of the information available on the web; much like our brain according to the prevalent estimate that we are able to consciously use only 4-6% of our brain! Spooky, isn’t it? It gets even spookier.
How does one access the pages on the Deep Web?
It can only be accessed via special browser called Tor Browser (the acronym of The Onion Router).
It uses multiple layers of encryption to protect the anonymity of both users and hosts and the information that are being sent or received.
Content that also can’t be indexed include dynamic pages that are just outcomes to a submitted database query, content that can only be downloaded by Flash or Ajax applications, various web archives and obviously numerous peer-to-peer networks.
Within the Deep Web there is also a part that’s called Dark Web – the Wild West of the Internet. Now, Dark Web is a place where things get really nasty – it’s swarming with drug dealers, fake IDs and stolen credit cards, child pornography, stolen identities, even professional hitmen…
Given the nature of their “business,” they are super-protected by the Deep Web’s encryption system and very tricky to catch.
The Dark Web brought the attention of the media and the general public in 2013, when one of the biggest Dark Web markets was shut down by the FBI.
The notorious Dark Web market was Silk Road.
Its founder, Ross Ulbricht, was arrested and sentenced to a lifetime in prison. FBI’s extensive knowledge of the Dark Web and Open Source Intelligence techniques was crucial in that operation.
FBI’s extensive knowledge of the Dark Web and Open Source Intelligence techniques was crucial in that operation.
It is estimated that over one million drug sales were realized through Silk Road! No wonder they draw major public attention at the time.
A study conducted by Gareth Owen from the University of Portsmouth showed that the most common content requests via Tor Browser are 1) child pornography and 2) Dark Web markets.
Apart from the Dark Web markets, the most requested content are whistleblowing sites, such as WikiLeaks, used mostly by journalists; various forums for political discussions, then scam sites and cloned sites, and other fraud related services.
Not everything is dark in Dark Web
It is for these above mentioned reasons that Dark Web can be useful.
It is particularly valuable for Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) gathering.
However, to be able to successfully fight the Wild West of the Internet, one must first understand how it breathes.
OSINT – Open Source Intelligence refers to information that can be collected from publicly available sources. The term has nothing to do with neither “public intelligence” nor “open source software”.
OSINT includes a wide variety of information and sources, some of which can only be accessed on the Dark Web.
The easiest way to gather such information is via media (television, newspapers and magazines, radio and digital information), web-based sources (forums, blogs, social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn), video sharing sites, (YouTube, Vimeo), wiki’s, etc.
Many of these can be accessed using regular browsers, but others can only be accessed by Dark Web tools, especially forums and communities that are sharing sensitive information.
Much of publicly available info is best accessed via Tor Browser, because people don’t want the government to know and monitor what you are reading.
This especially refers to the government reports and official data.
If you are into your own private Open Source Intelligence gathering, or even journalistic one, you can never be too careful when dealing with sensitive information.
So, to have an access to certain confidential information on the Dark Web you may want to think about using the Dark Web tools.
Finally, many professional and academic sources are located on the Deep Web. This especially goes for conferences, symposia, professional associations, academic papers. Many highly educated people are using non-conventional Internet tools, just for the sake of their own security. See, not all
This especially goes for conferences, symposia, professional associations, academic papers.
Many highly educated people are using non-conventional Internet tools, just for the sake of their own security.
See, not all Deep Web is also Dark.