Originally published 11/23/2014. Updated 10/14/2016 to include a tool to determine if websites are blocked in China.
There is a region of the internet where people browse anonymously via Tor relays (encrypted connections). The content is not indexed by search engines. The information cannot be found easily from the Surface Web, where most people live, nor the identities of the browsers. It is known as the Deep Web, Dark Net, and the Onion Net.
Anyone can enter the Deep Web (see this layman’s guide here). According to www.fascolabs.com, the latest version of Tor can even take a person behind China’s massive internet firewall called The Golden Shield Project. Editors Note 10/14/2016: See the VPN Menor tool Test The Great China Firewall to determine if a site is blocked by China’s firewall.
It is no surprise that the Deep Web is a hotbed for illegal activities with the tools of anonymity and cryptocurrency including sex trafficking, drug dealing, and snuff porn. In November 2013, the site Silk Road was taken down after the arrest of owner Ross William Ulbricht (“Dread Pirate Roberts”) in San Francisco, California. Someone purchased cocaine and MDMA in Australia through Silk Road. It was later revealed that in March 2013, 70% of the 10,0000 products sold were illegal drugs.
Tor was originally developed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory and later by DARPA in order to protect online communications of the U.S. intelligence community. It was launched on September 20, 2002. Currently Tor can theoretically be utilized for the same purpose, but it is often a place where government agencies troll for illegal activity. Ironically, Edward Snowden leaked information on the PRISM surveillance program in 2013 via Tor.
Ulbricht’s trial for Silk Road is scheduled for January 2015, which may impact both the access points and surveillance of the Deep Web. In the meantime, the layman’s guide is a good reference for access points. Editors Note 10/14/2016: Silk Road Creator Ross Ulbricht was sentenced to life in prison.
– Keri Kukral @kerikukral
Photo: Courtesty of www.roadtovr.com