Watch out, Hollywood has found the Deep and Dark Web. In Netflix’s “House of Cards,” a reporter uses it to hire a hacker to learn more about Vice President Frank Underwood’s past. “CSI: Cyber” says their team works on the edges of the dark net, the anonymous side of the Internet. “Deep Web” is a new documentary about Ross Ulbricht, convicted as the accused creator and operator of Silk Road, an online black market known best for selling illegal drugs.
There is the Internet that you and I use. There is the other Internet that we don’t.
The Surface Web is Google, Facebook, Amazon, Komando.com, eBay and everything else a search site typically shows. Depending on the survey, Google only catalogs and searches anywhere from 4 percent to 16 percent of the Surface Web.
Below the Surface Web is the Deep Web. There, you’ll find abandoned websites, paywalled sites, research firm databases, government databases and other things that aren’t meant to be public. In the Deep Web, there is a place called the Dark Web.
The Dark Web is where the Internet’s illicit activities reside. If you want to buy illegal drugs, guns, counterfeit money, stolen items, fake degrees or passports, cloned debit cards, hacking tools, weapons and more, you can. Dark Web sites also allegedly can let you hire a hit man or escort, buy someone’s identity or swap child pornography.
Finding sites on the Dark Web isn’t easy, and I am not going to give you the steps how to do it. Suffice to say, you need to visit the right online directory or hidden search site first to even find it. However, that doesn’t mean Dark Web sites aren’t popular or get mainstream attention.
Let me tell more about Silk Road.
The FBI took the site down in 2013, but its name and legend still live on. When the FBI raided the home of Ross Ulbricht, it seized $28.5 million in untraceable digital currency that was sitting on Ulbricht’s computer. Black market sites are doing hundreds of millions, potentially billions, of dollars in illicit business.
Even with Silk Road gone, there are still numerous sites selling illegal goods, services and the unconscionable. However, the Dark Web might not be dark for much longer.
DARPA, the research arm of the Defense Department that also works on projects like flying aircraft carriers (bit.ly/1PaCLtK), is making key parts of its Memex search system available as open-source software. That means anyone can download and adapt Memex in new ways.
Unlike other popular search systems, Memex can search the Dark Web, and it’s already being used to hunt down human traffickers. Other research organizations, including NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory, MIT, Carnegie Mellon University and Stanford University, are working on their own software built on Memex technology.
Some of these programs are going to help law enforcement track down criminals, while others could give Google a run for its money. Stanford’s DeepDive figures out connections between groups of data. So you can search for a person and an organization and the system will figure out how they’re related. Carnegie Mellon’s TJBatchExtractor creates personal and company profiles from advertisements, which is useful for tracking down criminals offering illegal activities on Dark Web forums.
A company named Diffeo has a system that learns what kind of answers you’re looking for so it can exclude irrelevant information. Hyperion Gray is working on a Web crawler that doesn’t rely on links for connecting websites. It can find similar information on sites that are completely unrelated.
Most of these applications are geared toward law enforcement, researchers and scholars, but so was the original Internet. You never know what new super-powered search system is going to come out of it that changes the way we find information.
In the meantime, you’re going to be hearing more about the Dark Web from both Hollywood and in the news. In fact, you might even have your kids or grandkids asking about it. Go to bit.ly/1EUvj6C to find out what I said to my son about the Dark Web when he asked, and what you need your kids to know. After you’re done watching that video, be sure to check out more exclusive clips from my weekly national talk radio show.
Kim Komando hosts the nation’s largest talk radio show about consumer electronics, computers and the Internet. Hear it locally at 94.3 WSC News Radio noon-3 p.m. Sundays. For more information, go to www.komando.com. Kim also posts breaking tech news 24/7 at News.Komando.com.