The Darkweb: Part 2
A series of articles written by Carl Blase Jr.
First published November 2019.
This continuing series of articles is in preparation for a February 2020 presentation by the Lee County Sheriffs Department for our computer club at Jamaica Bay
The first question I’ll try to answer is how can we visualize the “Dark Web” to better understand it? One way is to think of the internet as an iceberg, composed of 3 parts. Take a look at the graphic.
The world wide web is the ice you see. It is available to anyone using a browser such as Chrome, Edge, Firefox, Safari and others. This "network" of computers allows other computers and/or individuals to share information and resources.
Just Under the surface you’ll find the “deep web”. This is closed to the general public and maintained by businesses using firewalls and passwords for use by their employees. A rule of thumb: If you have to log in to one of your accounts by providing a user name, password, or some other type of authentication, the information you access is on the deep web.
Now think of the bottom third of the iceberg as the dark web. Dark web website addresses end with .onion instead of the surface web’s .com, .org, or .gov, for example.
Is everything on the dark web illegal?
NO: It hosts harmless activities and content, as well as criminal ones.
For instance, one dark web website might provide complex riddles. Another might be a kind of book club that makes eBooks look more professional. Yet another might offer a forum for people who believe free speech is threatened.
The following terms will help us in our understanding of the dark web:
TOR: The BROWSE FREELY browser. The TOR browser is similar to Chrome, Safari, etc. except it allows you access to sites only available on the dark web. With a Tor Browser, you are free to access sites your home network may have blocked.
One interesting fact is that 80% of the money needed for TOR development has, from 2012, been funded by the federal government of the United States, U.S. State Department, the Broadcasting Board of Governors, and the National Science Foundation. The other 20% comes from the Swedish government and other organizations including NGOs (what's this?) and thousands of individual sponsors.
TOR ANONYMITY NETWORK: Anonymous communication referred to as the “Onion Router”, also known as TOR, also referred to as “Onionland”. There are many, many “onion” routers. I will attempt to explain how these routers work in PART 4 of this article. Tor is used by common Internet users, journalists, the military, activists, law enforcement officers and many others.
An example of a home network
You can read more about the Massachusetts non-for-profit group now responsible for “The TOR project” at this link:
What do other countries say and do about the Dark Web?
You've just read that the US Government provides much of the funding for the TOR project. Did you know that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA) has called Tor "the king of high-secure, low-latency Internet anonymity".
The United Nations states that "Accessing
and browsing the dark web is not illegal per se as the illegality is focused more on its use."
The BBC has made its international news website available via the Tor network, in a bid to thwart censorship attempts. Countries including China, Iran and Vietnam are among those who have tried to block access to the BBC News website or programs. Instead of visiting bbc.co.uk/news or bbc.com/news, users of the Tor browser can visit the new bbcnewsv2vjtpsuy.onion web address. Clicking this web address will not work in a regular web browser.
How are things bought & sold on the dark web?
BITCOIN: A cryptocurrency.
It represents a form of money which can be exchanged with real currency such as US dollars. It is the most popular form of payment on the dark web. Bitcoin is traded on the US stock market. Grayscale Digital Large Cap Fund LLC (GDLCF) as of this writing sales for ~$35 a share.
In Part 3 we'll delve more into the "darth vader" side of internet. We'll look at what types of illegal activities occur and what makes a 'market'. We'll also look at what our various government and state agencies have been doing to thwart crime. How successful have they been?