What is the Deep Web?
Did you know that the internet you are used to, the Internet, only makes up a tiny percentage of the actual web out there? There is something that is bigger than this web by up to 550 times, and contains 7500 terabytes of information, compared to the ‘internet’ that you are used to, which holds only 19? This ‘other’ internet is the Deep Web.
In 2002, the US Navy commissioned an initiative that would allow private web communications. Tor, or The Onion Router, was established, and the service was then rapidly adopted worldwide by technology fans where users can browse the web with utter anonymity in an ungovernable space. Except, it’s not quite the web as you know it. This area of the internet is known as many names: the Dark Web, Invisible Web, or Hidden Web. The most common and accepted name is the Deep Web, and it goes very, very far down indeed. Check out this video for a comprehensive overview of Tor and and Deep Web.
The most common methods of reaching deeper levels of the web, anonymously, is through The Tor Project. It acts as a browser, letting users access webpages that aren’t listed by Google, Yahoo, Bing and other search engines. The Tor Project claims that between 2011 and 2012, numbers of users on its free software have doubled, reaching around 600,000 people a year. Since August of 2013 (around the time of the Snowden revelations) traffic on the Deep Web has massivly increased again.
TOR works by passing on web traffic over multiple nodes that add layers of encryption coding at each stage, effectively leaving the users and websites hosted on it untraceable.
Since the Snowden revelations, where an ex-NSA contract blew the lid on US and UK government surveillance projects, TOR and the Deep Web have become synonymous with the military, journalists, whistleblowers, and generally people who want to write or reveal things that would land them in a lot of trouble if found out.
Concise-courses.com summarises the Deep Web in a fantastic analogy: "Think of it like this: Google, Bing or Yahoo – drag their fishing nets across the surface of the ocean and haul in their enormous catch of fish. They then proceed to categorize, rank, and index the ‘fish’ that they have caught. ‘Fish’ refers to ‘content’ of course! Just as fisherman will toss overboard trash their nets accidentally caught, so will the search engines ‘toss overboard’ spam.
"Discussing spam here is a slight digression – so back to the nets and ocean – and the Deep Web! The major search engines’ nets can only reach a certain depth – say 100 meters – and there is plenty of fish at that depth that keeps the Internet alive and what it is today. However, there are more, a lot more, fish that the Google fishing nets simply can’t reach. Those ‘fish’ belong and live in the Deep Ocean – also known as, the Deep Web."
So how do you access The Deep Web?
As mentioned above, you’ll have no luck scratching beneath the ‘Surface Web’ with an everyday regular internet browser – you have to download a deep web browser. Tor is the widely used, and can be downloaded and installed within a matter of minutes.
One you’ve got it all downloaded, using it is just like using any other browser you’re used to, just type in the URL you want to go to and you’ll arrive somewhere at the first level of The Deep Web. All sites on the Deep Web are .onion domains, which make the hoster and user anonymous, or rather very difficult to trace. Here’s a list of .onion web URLs that are accessible from Tor.
But what’s in the Deep Web?
Now this is where matters can get a bit heated. As well as being used as a force for good, the Deep Web also hosts pretty much everything illegal under the Sun. Take for instance, Silk Road, which has become known as ‘the Amazon.com for drugs’. Yes, you can buy drugs there, anonymously. Narcotics users can buy on Silk Road range from marijuana all the way to heroin and LSD. Users pay for their drugs via |Bitcoin, and deliveries can be made via standard shipping methods, or dropped off in locations which GPS coordinates are sent to the buyer, to be picked up anonymously. Guns and other firearms were also on the marketplace, but were then moved to a sister site called The Armory. This is now shit down though, however. Buyers can leave reviews of products and sellers, where crowd sourcing creates a community-focused vibe. Note, Silk Road was shit down in September 2013 by an FBI raid, but a new site called Silk Road 2.0 is now in operation.
Deeper, you can hire hitmen on the deep web. There are actual job ads for assassinations, with weapon and transport fees having to be paid up front. Also available is stolen credit card information, betting on fixed sport events, and other illegal, odd activities that we won’t go into here.