Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn and possibly all the sites you've heard of (yes, even pornography) are indexed by search engines. But do you think that's all the information available on the Internet? Have you ever thought what exists beyond the confines of the index? Ever wondered how hackers communicate without eliciting suspicion?
Well, what you see on the Internet (or the "surface web") is only 4% of the total information that actually exists!
Yes, the average Internet user has "lawful" access to only the tip of the iceberg. The lower we go, the more intriguing it gets.
If we take the surface web as a pivotal point and go a notch lower, we enter the domain of the "Deep Web" (a term coined in 2000). The deep web is 500 times larger than the surface web and has information that Google has no idea about.
Thought Google/Yahoo/Bing was too smart? Well, sorry to break your bubble!
What does the Deep Web or the Deep Internet contain?
The Deep Web essentially contains registration-required web forums, user databases, bank records, legal documents, scientific pages, pages behind paywalls etc. If you've ever used an online bank account, the password protected bits are lodged in the Deep Web. So everything that you don't want others to have easy access to, falls within the purview of the mysterious Deep Web.
But the Deep Web conceals another dark secret, something so scary that it will send creeps down your spine. A place shrouded in mystery, akin to a treacherous path leading to a new haven. It's the place where drug dealers, weapon sellers, hitmen and...(gulp) even cannibals meet online!
This chunk of the Deep Web is known as the Dark Web, the place which is a collection of websites which are publicly visible, but hide the IP addresses of the servers that run them. Dark Internet websites can be operated easily, but it is extremely difficult to find out who is behind the website. But because it is not indexed by Google, most Dark Web sites are not known to users.
How do they hide their identity?
Almost all websites on the so called dark domain of the Internet, hide their identity using the Tor encryption tool. Tor or The Onion Router is an anonymous browsing client, notorious for its end-user-hiding-properties, which prompts users to spoof locations and conceal identity. Accessing a website through Tor entails multiple layers of encryption, which makes it difficult for the identity to be traced back to the end user. Tor was initially developed for the US Navy as a way of protecting government information.
What can one find on the Dark Web?
Remember Edward Snowden, the former CIA agent who made the news? He acquired information on the NSA's global surveillance programme using the Dark Web.
What else can one find on it?
Because it is untraceable, the Dark Web soon became a haven for illegal activities to take place, spawning forums where buyers and sellers congregated and dealt in illegal substances and services.
Some of them being:
The Silk Road was an online black market that sold every type of illegal drug in the world! It was later cracked down by the FBI and the mastermind was arrested.
Sites like Black Market Reloaded was a website exactly like The Silk Road that sold weaponry including hand grenades and bombs at escalated prices to people around the world.
Sites such as the Hitman Network was a group of 3 people who could be hired to kill anyone in North America!
Illegal documents and papers
There are numerous websites that provide passports of countries, drivers' licenses and other forged documents!
As unsettling and ghastly as it may sound, there is a network that unites cannibals from around the world. People have often put their bodies up for sale, for consumption!
The payment is made using Bitcoin, the anonymous form of payment that cannot be traced back to the buyer/seller.