Recently, news came that the FBI arrested the alleged administrator of a flourishing anonymous online drug market called ‘Silk Road’. The accused, Ross William Ulbrich, known online as Dread Pirate Roberts, had been leading on the FBI for the last two and a half years. Surprisingly, he is not the only player in the market there are other competitors as well. According to the U.K.’s Daily Mail, apart from drugs there are many such illegal anonymous businesses such as arms dealing and contract killing that are operational. So the point to ponder here is that in this age of cyber law how these kinds of businesses operate on the Internet? The answer to this lies in the mysterious Deep Web.
About the Deep Web
Mike Bergman, founder of BrightPlanet, coined the phrase ‘Deep Web’. Simply put, the Deep Web is the part of the Internet that search engines do not reach. By 2011, the Deep Web contained 7,500 terabytes of information compared to 19 terabytes of information in the surface Web and nearly 550 billion individual documents compared to the 1 billion on the surface Web.
According to Bergman, there is a lot of information hidden in the form of websites that standard search engines do not find because those pages do not exist until they are created dynamically through a specific search. It makes use of an anonymity network called ‘Tor’ which encrypts the data and then distributes the small packets of data across multiple relays set-ups by users across the world. These websites with the help of Tor are launched on onion network i.e. they make use of onion URL. You need to install Tor Browser Bundle, if you want to access those websites which uses a special DNS server. The Tor browser guides the route and in due course hops many times so as to keep the identity of website and the user anonymous i.e. they keep the IP address unknown.
A virtual currency, Bitcoin, is used for monetary transactions. Bitcoin uses peer-to-peer technology for operation and has no central authority or banks to issue and manage transactions. Transactions with Bitcoin occurs anonymously over the network from one user to other, making tracking of transactions difficult. However, on the positive side, Deep Web can be used to protect our privacy by not allowing others to spy on us. Author of ‘Deep Web for Journalists’ Alan Pearce said that by hiding the data in Deep Web, there is no risk of the information being intercepted.
Need for Deep Web
With news of intelligence agencies’ surveillance practices, it has become crucial to keep critical and important documents private. It can also be the solution for research of sensitive topics, facilitator for hidden military communication and safe submission of sensitive documents to governments, police etc. Pearce has suggested that the journalist community should make maximum use of the Deep Web because it is safer than any other privacy measure. But, before using Deep Web frequently, a good cyber security infrastructure has to be put in place. Deep Web exists in order to provide incredible services to people and organisations that require anonymity to release information or communicate without fear. It is time to realise the good and the bad of technology in order to use it judiciously and constructively.
(The author is in final year of MBA in Operations and Systems programme at Christ University, Bangalore)