Do you know about the dark web?
According to a popular myth, humans only use 10 percent of their cerebral capacity. We struggle to quantify our brain’s usage because we are not the architects of our minds. However, since the invention of the computer in the 1930s by Alan Turing, we have had unlimited access to brains made out of wire, steel and silicon. Now we use these man-made brains mostly to browse the Internet; however, that is where human minds and mechanical minds have similarities in their perceived limitations. It has been estimated that typical computer user accesses only 4 percent of the Internet — this is the “normal” Internet where Facebook, YouTube and Wikipedia operate. The other 96 percent of the Internet is comprised of what is called the Deep Web, the portion of the Internet not “browsable” on normal search engines. However, even further down in the Deep Web lies a portion of the Internet where some of the world’s most wanted criminals operate — the Dark Web.
The Dark Web is the home of the most prominent types of cybercrime. The Dark Web requires users to be anonymous through the use of the privacy software such as TOR. TOR, or the onion router, is free to download and makes its users anonymous and able to access any website online without their activity being traced back to them. TOR does this by using a system of online tunnels where a user’s activity is routed through several computers before reaching its destination, essentially making it impossible to track the user’s location. The TOR browser has become popular after Edward Snowden’s revelations about the U.S. government’s controversial surveillance operations.
The FBI and CIA have been rapidly trying to infiltrate the Dark Web where individuals, under the cloak of anonymity, have constructed some of the largest cybercrime circuits in the world — the most famous of these being the several versions of Silk Road.
The Silk Road was launched in 2011 by Ross Ulbricht as an anonymous online black market that used the electronic and untraceable currency known as BitCoin. Silk Road sold everything from illegal drugs, weapons and its most controversial item for sale — murder-for-hire. Ulbricht, who went by the screen name “Dread Pirate Roberts,” was arrested in 2013 and Silk Road was subsequently shut down by the FBI. However, the arrest of Ulbricht did not discourage hackers from continuing to visit the online black market.
In late 2013 after Ulbricht’s arrest, Silk Road 2.0 was launched by other users of the original Silk Road. There are currently several versions of Silk Road operating, but the prevalence of cybercrime may be reaching its breaking point since the FBI has dedicated a number of task forces to cracking the Dark Web.
Never think the Internet is as simple as portrayed. There are real-world effects for everything done online — as can be seen by Ulbricht’s fate who was convicted of seven charges which included money laundering, computer hacking, narcotics trafficking and criminal enterprise. Ulbricht now faces 30 years to life in prison for a website that he states started as an “economics experiment.”
Be careful on the Internet and remember that the Internet may not last forever, but what one writes online is floating around in cyberspace and it is virtually impossible to erase.