Is The Deep Web the Newest Trend and Should I Care?
If you are an active participant in the world wide web, you are participating in approximately 1% of the internet. This includes Google, Bing, Yahoo, Facebook, Amazon, ebay, Spotify, Netflix, Hulu, etc. For most people, our daily searching, emails, shopping and internet habits are found on the very surface of the world wide web. The other 99% of the internet can be found “underwater” or under the surface of the internet, and this bottom feeder area of the internet is called the deep-web, also known as the dark-web or the black web. Now, to be truthful no one person knows exactly how deep the deep-web goes, but recent studies believe it to be about 99 times more than the surface internet most of us use on a daily basis.
The deep-web is a place that many of your students know about and, if your students are anything like mine, many of them have already spent a great deal of time exploring it. On the deep-web, you can purchase illegal drugs or stolen credit card information, acquire a prostitute, find computer viruses, use stolen identities, obtain a hit-man or hit-woman, or even locate and purchase stolen body parts. The deep-web is also a place where people speak their minds freely and many people place political statements about presidential nominees, local candidates, or any other thing they desire to say, where hopefully they will never be discovered.
To understand the deep-web, we need to understand what the Internet is. Simply put, the Internet in its most basic form is a computer talking to a computer. If you connect to the Internet through an ISP or Internet Service Provider, your computer talks to their computer which talks to another computer. Most of the people reading this will be connecting through an ISP such as AT&T, Comcast, or Time Warner Cable. When we connect into a public hotspot like at Starbucks or at a hotel, we are going through their ISP. So you can imagine a cord (mostly wireless, now) going from your computer to a server (a different type of computer) at the hotel you are staying at, which will speak to a computer at whichever website you are going to. As complicated as this may sound, just understand that its a straight road, like route 66. You can see the other end of the road from where you are at, and they can also see you. That is how a connection works.
The deep-web on the other hand is more like the tail of the dragon in Robbinsville, NC, a favorite spot for motorcyclists to ride because of its 318 curves in 11 miles. When you desire to connect into the deep-web, you do not want to be known. You want your identity hidden on the deep-web.
So lets talk for a moment about connecting into the deep-web. Later in this article, I will share with you the actual information on how a person logs into the deep-web, although I will not share with you how to log into places such asThe Silk Road that resembles an Amazon or Ebay for body parts, drugs and services to be rendered. But if your students have figured it out, I’m sure you could as well.
Connecting into the deep-web requires the ability to hide your identity and to protect yourself. The way that this is accomplished is through a VPN or a Virtual Private Network. The shortest way to explain a VPN comes from PC Magazines article “THE BEST VPN SERVICES FOR 2016:”
(1) Imagine“if your car pulls out of your driveway, someone can follow you and see where you are going, how long you are at your destination, and when you are coming back. With a VPN service, you are essentially driving into a closed parking garage, switching to a different car, and driving out, and no one who was originally following you knows where you went.”
As you can imagine when you are in a VPN, you are within reason (simply speaking) to hide your searches. That is what makes it private. I stated earlier that when you are logging into the deep-web you are going through a lot of curves. These curves come from changing your computers IP address. Your IP address is your similar to your computer having a phone number that allows it to call or connect to other computers who also have a number. So a VPN will change your phone number multiple times by connecting you to another computer, which then connects you to another computer, etc. The benefit is that a computer only keeps track of its incoming and outgoing locations. If you change your location enough, eventually no one can trace you, unless they owned all the computers and went to them individually and got the details off each of them. Many times this also means going through computers in other countries.
There are a lot of benefits to using a VPN as well. Many schools and large companies use VPN’s to secure their company’s information. Sometimes this might even look like an internal network, or an intranet, that people can access only from within the company to share files or sensitive documents, post grades, etc. You may even be using a VPN right now as you read this. VPN’s themselves are created to allow people to be private on the internet, and that can be very important especially if you have sensitive items on your computer. I hope churches that keep membership items on a computer either have them in a database that requires a password to open or that they are behind a VPN.
CNN Money did a great report on the deep-web and how it works in March of 2014. In their report they spoke about how much of the deep-web is databases. Some of the larger ones are from places such as NASA, The Patent and Trademark office and other public databases. 13% of the dark web is also Intranet, such as universities internal sites and companies internal file structures. Remember not all of the deep-web is bad… But then there’s Tor.
Tor, or The Onion Router, is a way to surf the internet securely and secretly.“Tor, the darkest corner of the Internet. It’s a collection of secret websites (ending in .onion) that require special software to access them. People use Tor so that their Web activity can’t be traced — it runs on a relay system that bounces signals among different Tor-enabled computers around the world.”(2)
The Tor Browser is free and will tell you on their website(www.torproject.org) that their creation is in “A Distributed, Anonymous Network.”(3) Tor stands up from Anti-Traffic Analysis. In short, they want to make sure your internet stays just your internet. They help you create a private network where you can travel around the world wide web and never be traced. On paper, this sounds like a great way to keep your identity safe online and to be able to be online and not have people, or companies, tracing your every step (which they do, in case you were unclear on this).
The problem, as you might remember from George Orwell’s Animal Farm, is when there is no one in control, humans or animals do whatever they want. That is exactly what has happened in TOR. As I stated earlier people, since we don’t assume aliens or chickens have access to the internet, have really made TOR the new black market of the internet. People buy and sell anything they want without fear of repercussion as long as they continue to hide their true identity.
The Deep-web has an official currency known as Bitcoins. Bitcoins and their value system are very unsteady and change constantly, even within the same day. The current conversion rate is roughly 9 times the worth of the US Dollar. Over the last 24 hours their worth has dropped over $14.(4) The great part of Bitcoins is that it offers a standardized currency across the world and can be purchased from a host of places, both online and off. Does a standardized currency across the world remind you of any stories in the Bible? If you truly want to be secure, buying Bitcoins online is still traceable and you would be better off purchasing them off the grid… But I would want to be sure that I knew that my protection was secure and that wherever I went to purchase the BitCoins was very well populated and well lit.
The Down and Dirty of the Deep-Web
Tor, which was originally created by the US Navy to help them send items back and forth securely, works through a set of VPN’s; but, so do most major universities and some major companies. Tor, is a private browser that when paired with the VPN concept allows users to securely travel the web and be anonymous. With anonymity comes the ability to get away with more stuff. More than ever, our students have access to more information more quickly. The information that we have access to online roughly doubles every 2 years. That is crazy to think that we are able to digest that much as a society.
I personally, think that we allow ourselves to have a false sense of privacy online. In my opinion, if it is typed or done online someone can trace it if they want to. The FBI has taken many people to trial over the last few years from websites that can only be found on the deep-web.(5) I would highly encourage youth workers to have conversations with both parents and students on how spending time in the deep web, especially TOR, can be incredibly dangerous, costly, and most importantly lead to them being in jail, addicted, or killed.
If you do chose to snoop around the deep-web, on the surface it will look just like the regular internet. If you choose to search out and find the places that allow you to buy illegal items, then remember that you will need to set up an account. When creating an account you should never use a username that ties back to you or a password that looks anything like your current passwords. Remember, most of the deep-web is filled with things that are illegal, not trustworthy, or, at minimum, immoral. Do your homework and know what you are walking into before walking through the deep-web portal. I highly recommend checking out the sources that are linked below.
(1) PC MAGAZINE, August 28, 2015:http://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2403388,00.asp
(4) COIN DESK, Sept, 23,2015: http://www.coindesk.com/bitcoin-on-the-dark-web-the-facts/