The deep web entices most of us and intimidates some of us. However, it is browsed by almost all of us. Given that traditional search engines, such as Google, Yahoo, etc., can search only a small portion of the internet, renders the deep web a very enticing resource. The dark web is an important subset of the deep web, that can only be accessed via means of special software such as the Tor browser. Most individuals think of the dark web as the hotbed of various forms of criminal activities, where almost anything can be bought and sold. However, the truth is that the dark web can represent a useful portal for many legal activities, and means for protection of the privacy and identity of journalists, whistleblowers, etc.
A recently published paper explored the threats posed by the dark web, in addition to its benefits and importance in our daily lives. Let’s look at the threats and benefits of the dark web as presented via this paper:
Hazards of the dark web to the society:
The dark web poses numerous threats to the modern world. Many anonymous or hidden services (websites) on the dark web are special forms of black market websites that sell illicit drugs, counterfeit money, hacking software, weapons, porn (especially illegal pornographic material e.g. child pornography), and stolen credit cards. One can even find unreliable hitmen-for-hire on darknet marketplaces. Human organs have been also reported to be sold on some darknet marketplaces, e.g. kidneys for $200,000, livers for $150,000, and hearts for $120,000.
You can also hire hackers on the dark web. Hackers-for-hire are outsourced by cybercrime syndicates, e.g. China’s Hidden Lynx group, which includes hackers who claim to have compromised systems at Adobe, Google, and Lockheed Martin.
Multilingual Crime Call Centers represent one of the services offered on the dark web. Those working on such call centers are ready to play any duplicitous role, e.g. providing educational and job references, unblocking hacked accounts, initiating wired transfers, and more. Such calls can cost around $10.
Benefits of the deep and dark web to the society:
For good intentions, the following represent the most important benefits of the deep and dark web.
Anonymity and identity concealment:
The Tor web browser used to access the dark web provides users with anonymity while browsing the internet. Tor is by far the most efficient internet censorship circumvention tool. Tor prevents ISPs from learning which sites are being visited by users. It also blocks the visited sites from identifying the physical location of their visitors. Journalists rely on Tor to securely and anonymously communicate with dissidents and whistleblowers.
Corporations also use Tor to privately conduct competitive analysis, and to keep sensitive procurement patterns safe from eavesdroppers.
Freedom of expression:
Freedom of expression is protected by the anonymity offered via the dark web. For instance, individuals living in countries with oppressive regimes, such as North Korea, can express themselves freely. They can blog about their lives and experiences in such countries via hidden services on the dark web.
Bypassing blocked sites:
Oppressive governments block access to websites, especially social media, to prevent the spread of revolutionary ideas. Within this context, the Tor browser represents a solution to bypass website blockage by oppressive governments. As such, the deep and dark web have had an important role in the recent Arab spring.
Knowledge and awareness:
The deep and dark web represent the largest storehouse of various forms of virtual libraries. It is an ideal destination for students and researchers, as they can find on the deep and dark web what cannot be obtained via traditional search engines. Google DeeperWeb and Microsoft Academic Research, for example, allow users to search deeply into the dark web. Legal records that are buried deep into the web can be revealed to identify certain court cases and decisions.
The Tor network enables users to bypass domains blocked by ISPs. Furthermore, harvesting the deep and dark web enables law enforcement agents and intelligence officers to access information at high speeds. In addition to offering us the chance to keep our information safe, the dark web also offers us a myriad of services including emails, Freenet, I2P, P2P, Tor, VPN, and Tail OS.