Why The Dark Web Matters
In our last installment we learned about the dark web and where it came from. If you missed it, you can catch it here. In short, the dark web, as most people know it in the form of The Onion Router (or TOR), was created by the United States government as a way to help people connect to the internet anonymously. This was done so that users could access the entire World Wide Web and subvert draconian censorship measures in places like Iran and China. Unfortunately, the technology that is used for hiding from the Chinese government online also works against the US government.
So what is going on in the deep, dark web? Why all the secrecy? Well, dark web users are all concerned about privacy and staying anonymous, which is why they use TOR and other tools in the first place. So what needs to be hidden? Users of TOR are often trying to stay hidden from law enforcement because they are doing things online that could land them in prison. The dark web hosts all sorts of illegal content such as dark web markets. These are online black markets used to buy and sell all sorts of things such as drugs, scam & hacking services, expensive zero day exploits, assassinations, organs and more. Sadly, the dark web is also a safe haven for pedophiles and other child abusers, and one study found that 4 out of 5 visits to the dark web involve child pornography.
So yes, there are some pretty disturbing content on the dark web. What about all that good stuff it was originally created to do? Yes, people are still using TOR for its original purpose. Those who live in truly oppressive countries are able to use it to read non-state-sponsored news. Facebook can be accessed through TOR via a hidden service address and used to collaborate and organize in private. Or you could just stay connected to people you meet from around the world and share in an exchange of ideas. Another primary use for good actors on the dark web is the transfer of information, such as tips on human rights violations, legitimate whistleblowing and other important, but sensitive, information that should be passed to journalists.
Governments are also able to use TOR to transfer information. Intelligence officers can anonymously contact spies and collect documents from them safely and securely. TOR mitigates some of the greatest risks associated with espionage, such as meeting in person or sending files over networks being monitored by hostile governments. According to one of the original creators of the network, TOR was created to hide government communications and enable safer open source intelligence collection, but also served the purpose of promoting the free flow of information abroad.
Finally, there are other users that are just concerned about privacy. When surfing the internet with the TOR browser, marketers are not able to build advertisment profiles that can be tied to a specific user or IP address. If the government has difficulty trying to figure out who is who on TOR, ad agencies are not going to have an easy time figuring out who might be interested in buying their product through personalized promotions (let alone chasing them across multiple sites). Many people don’t want their internet provider to collect information on what they look at online to sell to data brokers. TOR solves that problem.
This is, of course, a limited explanation of some of the things that can be found on the dark web and why different people find it valuable. In many ways, it’s a blank canvas. And with a blank canvas, anything is possible — be it good or bad.
Next blog post:
For the next installment of the series we are going to look at how the dark web and its users can affect a business, and, more importantly, what businesses can do to limit their risk. If you have enjoyed what you have been reading, please feel free to share the post or subscribe to our blog! Also, if there is something that you would like to hear more about, please reach out to us on social media as we would love to hear what you’d be most interested in reading.