What Lies In The Invisible Internet?
The sheer amount of information that can be accessed via the World Wide Web is staggering. There are currently at least 4.5 billion pages, and this number is constantly growing. But as huge as the Internet may be, this barely scratches the surface of the entire web. In fact, it’s been estimated that publicly available sites only amount to 4% of all online content. The remaining 96% can be found via the dark web, also known as the invisible Internet, the dark net, the black Internet and various other equally foreboding names.
Getting into the dark web requires specific programmes and software. The most common is TOR (The Onion Router), which enables anonymous browsing by simply rerouting IP addresses. Unlike the standard surface web, information on the dark web can’t be accessed directly and is stored in databases. This makes it incredibly difficult to know who is behind a certain site. As you can probably imagine, the ‘secret Internet’ is home to some seriously unsavoury sites. . . but there are also some perfectly innocent ones too, like a page entirely dedicated to photos of kittens. Cute animals aside, the dark web has become a hive for criminal activity. In the online equivalent of perusing a black market, browsing the dark web isn’t technically illegal until you access certain content. Perhaps the most well known illegal website is the Silk Road, which uses Bitcoin to buy and sell prohibited items like drugs.
As well as fostering illegal activities like human trafficking and child pornography, the dark web is used to steal and sell data. In 2015, cybercriminals hacked into Ashley Madison, an online dating website for adulterers, and threatened to upload the information of 32 million users to the dark web. This month, more than 25 million Google and Yahoo accounts were stolen through DropBox, MySpace and LinkedIn and advertised on the dark web. This hacking scandal demonstrates the changing nature of crime and, if it wasn’t already painfully obvious, the importance of protecting personal online accounts.