As you and I putter around the web, we tend to be happily unaware of what lurks beneath, much like a surface swimmer in an ocean. In fact, there are 3 levels to the web, two of which we regularly use and one of which is dark, hidden and inaccessible without special tools.
The web’s top layer is the “Surface Web,” consisting of content that search engines can crawl, index and provide. Most web sites used by your average web denizen on a daily basis reside in the surface web, accessible to search engines such as Google and Yahoo.
The “Deep Web,” which is the second layer, consists of content that search engines cannot crawl, index and provide, for one reason or another. A web site could be unattainable through search engines because it is a private web site requiring registration and login or because the web site consists of only archives that are longer accessible and are not indexed by search engines. Consequently, “Deep Web” is not sinister; many of us use it daily for perfectly legitimate business and personal reasons.
The third layer is the “Dark Web,” a portion of the Deep Web that is deliberately hidden and accessible only with special software, such as “Tor” or other “darknet” software. Users hide their IP addresses, interacting and doing business anonymously. Hackers, ISIS, criminals and whistleblowers inhabit that third layer. The Silk Road, based on the philosophy that people should be able to buy and sell just about anything without government interference, was also a Dark Web denizen. The Silk Road was wildly popular and made a fortune until its leader, Robert Ulbricht (a/k/a Dread Pirate Roberts), slipped up and was indicted for drug trafficking, money laundering, hacking, criminal enterprise, conspiracy and murder-for-hire.
The Dark Web is mighty attractive, for obvious reasons. Even the Silk Road has been replaced by second banana “Silk Road Reloaded” because the illicit, anonymous trade is so lucrative.
Meanwhile, the criminal enterprises inhabiting the Dark Web attract law enforcement, such as the FBI, the DEA and Interpol. The FBI and DEA took down the Silk Road’s Dread Pirate Roberts. Furthermore, The International Criminal Police Organization (Interpol) now offers special courses in Dark Web technologies and takedowns of illicit web sites. Law enforcement is obviously not content to allow the Dark Web to shield illegal activities.
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