These are intense days for the Dark Web. Operations conducted by law enforcement agencies lad to the arrests of many individuals and the closure of the most popular Black Marketplaces, many of which remained alive over the years.
Operators behind the principal black markets made a lot of money, let’s think of managers of the Wall Street Market and Valhalla recently seized by feds. These are historic points of aggregations where it was possible to buy drugs, weapons, and any kind of hacking tools.
The icing on the cake was a US research that decreed how the size of the Dark Web was significantly lower than previously thought. This isn’t a novelty for the experts that are studying dark web and its evolution.
Unfortunately there is too much confusion between the term deep web and dark web, many videos on YouTube channels provide wrong information. Misinterpretation, superficiality, some times simple profits, these are the root cause of the confusion. This misinformation is extremely dangerous for kids, first consumers of videos published on the principal social media platform. Some videos show that is very simple to buy drugs securely or explain how to hack a website. Describing these phenomena, some journalists have been labeled “as experts on the dark web”.
The Dark Web is just a portion of the Deep Web, its access is quite simple and doesn’t require any specific technological skill. It is very easy to access to the Tor network or browse content on other anonymizing networks like I2P.
I started this research on September 2016, when I started writing my my book, “The Prison of the Humanity – from the deep web to 4.0 the new digital prisons”.
An Iceberg has always been used as a visual representation of the Internet world. The visible peak, which represents the smallest part of the iceberg, that many have mistakenly associated with the clear web: is the part reachable by search engines.
Even a child could easily wonder: how can billions of sites visible to internet users represent 5% of the internet itself?
The Deep Web is composed of the content of the www that is not indexed by search engines. Try to imagine the site of a Provider that offers voice or connectivity services to millions of people, families and companies. Its files are not indexable by search engines. Try to think of a banking site with millions of account holders who keep the history of transactions, deposits, investments for years and years, without obviously being accessible to the entire web population.
Let’s also include all information by the IOT devices that are connected online by that that cannot be accessed for obvious reasons.
Well, not you can have an idea about the dimension of the deep web.
THE DARK WEB
What is the Dark Web? It is a non-indexed subset of the Deep Web. Accessible through TOR and other software, it has a size that is incalculable if we use imagination. In fact, there could be many .onion sites, an extension of the domains inside the TOR network, which are not indicated by the Hidden Wiki, a sort of Wikipedia of onion Links. Furthermore, each website can have sublevels that could reach infinity.
But here we talk about legends. We go into the merits of my research which is based on the facts and experience of three years of journalistic navigation in the Dark Web where not only do you have browsed dozens of Directories, but you have visited at least 100,000 sites.
My search is based on 100,000 sites that I have personally visited and that can be easily classified into very few categories that I will explain to you with brief descriptions:
The spirit of the Dark Web includes precisely the freedom of expression with portals that give “uncomfortable” or “alternative” news in countries where there is censorship. There are many sites in multiple languages that refer to ideological and collective movements, due to the greater number of Anarchist derivations, but there are also movements that promote the defense of online privacy. So there is so much counter-information and the most obvious example that I always carry forward is the version of the Bible translated into the languages of the countries where it is strictly prohibited.
They are the heart of the Dark Web in economic terms, needless to say that it is impossible to count them verify their reliability, but they are certainly the points of aggregation for several million users and unscrupulous sellers that offer drugs, weapons, medicines requiring medical prescription, bank credential and personal data of unsuspecting users, steroids and hacking guides.
Empty or non-functional web pages:
Empty pages, typical errors displaying code 404 that feed the list of the .onion domains in the directories.
There are many sites that promise the same services as Black Markets, including hitman services, hacking services, money laundering services… but they are only services operated by scammers.
Directories – Search Engines
There are many directories that offer the same links, Hidden Wiki services that offer a guide to the principal links in the Dark Web, but it is clear that the hidden Wiki is one and the original not only reports the links to the sites but also provides an “obscure and forbidden” encyclopedia service similar to the best known Wikipedia. The presence of search engines that are similar to Google are also frequent, but they do not always find the result that they hope for.
Child pornography-pornography-violence on animals-GORE
There are many pornographic sites on the clear web, but pornography in the dark web takes on gruesome tones. Violence, child abuse, snuff movies and extreme sex are very common. The sites that belong to these categories are divided into different types: chat rooms, traditional websites or service containers. The chats are usually open and there is a remarkable exchange of multimedia files for free. Then there are the forums that need registration, they offer audio/video content or images, and also provide suggestions on how to kill people or how to eat them in ritual cannibalism. Furthermore, there are many child pornography sites on the dark web that point to the largest online sharing platforms, such as Satoshi box or Megaupload, where it is possible to pay to download packages of illegal content.
Websites – Forums
They are normal websites that deal with different topics, including forums that represent meeting points for users that discuss legal and non-legal issues. There are many blogs that for the greater part deal with issues of cybersecurity and the rights of the digital population in terms of consumer protection and privacy.
Consider sites belonging to the above categories, in many cases they are traps set up by the law enforcement agencies to attempt to identify criminals. The dark web is full of honeypots.
Let’s conclude with some statistic on the composition of the Dark Web:
At this time, it is not possible to determine the exact number of Black Markets, anyway, it is really limited. Terrorism is an irrelevant phenomenon in terms of propaganda. It is also impossible to determine the diffusion of honeypots.
The real question is not how big is the Dark Web, but what will happen after the operations conducted law enforcement?
Who will be its users? Will Black Markets still exist?
Or is the Dark Web itself a honeypot for criminals, anarchists, terrorists and. pedophiles?
These doubts are legitimate, given that the military origins of the most popular anonymizing network.
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