I happened upon an article in one of the papers this week that touched a subject I had never heard about, here is some of it:
The internet is like an iceberg. The web as we know it – every Google result, all the billions of pages we visit – is just a tiny fraction jutting above the waves. The vast majority of it is invisible to web browsers and the general public. This is known as the ‘dark web’.
Most of this unseen mass of activity is perfectly innocent – paid-for content, sites that require log-ins, academic data, and so on. No one knows exactly how big the ‘dark’ portion is, but it’s estimated to be at least 15 times larger than the web we know, with more than 900 billion pages.
The dark web is a haven for criminal gangs around the world, to whom it offers a secret shop window where everything from child pornography to hard drugs to stolen credit-card details can be bought and sold.
The ‘anonymous’ web browser Tor is used by about 600,000 people a day – and is totally untraceable. Tor ‘bounces’ data between dozens of computers on its way to and from the web, making users effectively invisible.
Financed by the US government, the controversial browser is used by the FBI and championed by advocates of internet freedom. Tor offered a ‘safe’ channel to Egyptian dissidents during the Arab Spring and is used by bloggers in Syria. But it also grants access to a world where the illegal is openly traded.
Using Tor, you can visit special ‘.onion’ sites – a dark domain that is used to host highly illegal marketplaces. The notorious Silk Road site is an open drug market, where you browse and use a ‘checkout basket’, much as you would on Amazon. This week, offers include ‘250 pills of speed’, grams of Afghan heroin and new synthetic drugs.
Users report that contract killers can be hired via other Tor sites – and that fights to the death are a spectator sport. Many transactions are paid for in ‘bitcoins’, an online currency that allows money to be transferred without using banks.
Tor users in the UK openly offer weapons, high-grade cocaine and brides for sham marriages. Cyber criminals also advertise their wares.
One hacker’s .onion site proclaims: ‘I’ll do anything for money. If you want me to destroy some bussiness or a persons life [sic], I’ll do it! I can ruin them financially . . . If you want someone to get known as a child porn user, no problem.’
David Emm, senior researcher at internet security company Kaspersky Lab, said: ‘The “dark market” is the underbelly of the legitimate economy, but it operates in a similar way.
‘If criminals want to trade, they have to have a point of presence. Once you’ve found them, they’ll do business via sites on the “hidden web” or fake email accounts.
‘The key is they’re quite prepared to move. When the corrupt internet service provider Russian Business Network was shut down, a lot of people predicted that was the end of the “dark market”, but they just reappeared elsewhere.’
I am amazed as a webmaster of dozens of sites I had never heard of this before.
I was once on a black hat webmaster forum when I was heavily researching SEO that had sub domains and other addresses they referred to in the private rooms as the ‘dark side’ – but I never had enough site privileges to access them.
It was where you went to access the big link/email spammers and maybe meet naughty folks to take your competitors sites down if you were that way inclined. I wanted to do neither so I never tried so hard to get there.
Reading other stuff on this subject today, I realise now that some of those blokes were using language back then that I assumed meant other stuff. I remember mention of TOR, I assumed it was something like RAR, a lesser-known compression programme or something.
I remember odd mentions of ‘the Onion’ – I thought they meant the satire website of the same name. Duh!
As an experiment today, I did a search of a .onion site directory. I found some, but my browser (Chrome) wouldn’t open any of the links – gave me a page like my internet was down. Although it wasnt. I changed browsers and then I got an error page from my ISP. It seems internet censorship is alive and well but we just don’t know it.
Nowadays, if it isn’t on Google, it doesn’t exist, right? Wrong!
But what of the 900 Billion pages Google wont or cant index? What an interesting subject……
The TOR browser has a wiki entry: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/TOR_(anonymity_network)
As does the DeepNet: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deep_Web
Another interesting article I found: http://nakedsecurity.sophos.com/2012…net-anonymity/
I have never heard of a domain name ending in .onion
Has anyone else read about this before?