What is the Dark Web? | Mr Jarvis360

What is the Dark Web? | Mr Jarvis360

In August 2019 a Canadian man, Benjamin Faulkner, and his American accomplice Patrick Falte, were sentenced to 35 years in prison for running one of the largest child sexual abuse sites on the dark web. The site was called Child's Play. And their arrest and the conviction was the result of a coordinated international an effort by law enforcement agencies to infiltrate the site, identify its members, and shut it down. But maybe the most interesting detail of this whole the operation was just how common it's become. Police and government agencies take down illicit dark web sites like this every year. And it's not just child abuse sites. There are weapons, drugs, even hitmen. And these are all for sale on the dark web. But what is the dark web? And how does it work? And why does a place like this even exits if it attracts so much criminal activity? To understand that you first, have to understand how the dark web differs from the regular web. Think of the internet as a pyramid with three layers. At the top of the pyramid, the smallest part is about four to 10% of the web. And this is called the surface web or the clear net. Basically, it's the part of the web, you can Google. It's publicly visible, it's indexed by search engines, and it's what most of us think of when we think of the internet. But the clear net is just a small fraction of the information stored online. Below the clear net is the deep web. The deep web is the biggest layer of all. How big? Well some estimates suggest it could be four to 500 times bigger than the surface web. The deep web is composed of things like the files in our Dropbox and Google Drive accounts. Bank and medical records under password, and the content stored behind membership paywalls like Netflix and Spotify. This stuff doesn't come up in public search results but we still interact with it. It's private but it's not especially dark. The clear net and the deep web have this in common. Your online activity is traceable. Wherever you go it can be linked back to your IP address. You can think of your IP address as a license plate for your computer. It follows you everywhere. In fact, you need it just to send and receive information over the web. So, if someone knows your IP address and know what they're doing they can track down which websites you visit and where in the world you're logging in from. Unless you go a little deeper, all the way down to the dark web. Now the dark web is really just a subsection of the deep web, the part of the web, you can't access with public searches. The main difference is that it's completely unreachable using conventional web browsers. You can't stumble onto one of them using a standard the web browser like Chrome. To find a dark web site you need a special browser. The most popular is called Tor, T-O-R, it stands for the onion router. Now explaining how Tor works can get a bit technical but the big picture is this. It makes all your web activity completely anonymous by making your IP address untraceable. And the reason it's called the onion router is because it creates layers and layers of encryption around the information you send through the network. Like an onion. Ultimately the dark web isn't so much a place as it is a way of navigating invisibly through the deep web. So when we hear about a child abuse site being taken down where's it actually hosted? Where's the content being stored? Well, it could be anywhere. It could be on a rented server in the Philippines, or on your neighbor's laptop. Any computer or server connected to the internet can be configured with these anonymous routing protocols. So why does Tor continue to exist if it provides such a haven for criminal activity? Well there's actually some pretty good reasons. This is Einar Stangvik, he's a white hat hacker and he works for the Norwegian newspaper VG. Einer's got some pretty solid skills. Actually, that's an understatement. Einer managed to hack his the way into Child's Play, the forum Benjamin Faulkner was running when he uncovered the forum's IP address. - Tor can be used by anyone from a journalist who's working within a government with excessive surveillance to someone who wants to blow the whistle securely, anonymously, and also by people who want to avoid trackers, advertisers, and others that would otherwise monitor their traffic. So you could say that the legitimate use comes at a cost. So I think you would be better off trying to battle the specific uses that are illegal and to battle the specific users than to attack the technology. - So there are some legitimate reasons to maintain a global anonymous online network. But the question is do they outweigh the negatives? And if not who should we rely on to keep the darkness off the dark web? That mantle has been taken up on occasion by vigilante hacktivist groups like Anonymous. Anonymous has taken down child abuse sites on the dark web by locating and attacking the servers where they're hosted. But these events are few and far between. And they can actually undermine the efforts of law enforcement operations. What's proved most effective are specialized police units coordinating across borders and regional jurisdictions to identify, infiltrate, and dismantle large criminal enterprises on the dark web. Because these criminals networks almost always span across borders a special law enforcement alliance called the Virtual Global Taskforce now exists to coordinate online child abuse operations between dozens of countries and federal agencies including the RCMP. And although the bad guys continue to employ ever smarter tactics to hide their identities and activity the good guys are always finding ways to outsmart them. Recently the investigative division of the IRS, the Internal Revenue Service announced the takedown of a major child abuse site along with the arrest of its Korean administrator and dozens of members around the world. They were able to do this by de-anonymizing transactions of the cryptocurrency Bitcoin. Something that was once thought impossible. So, is the dark web worth keeping? Well, in the end, it's not really up to us. Because of its distributed nature the dark web can't really be destroyed. As a society, if we want to preserve the benefits of anonymous information the network then we also have a responsibility to update our laws and provide police with the resources they need to fight criminals where they hide. And hopefully prevent the bad actors from overwhelming the good.





What is the Dark Web?



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