BY: VANESSA NIGRO
How many times have you caught yourself uttering the phrase, “Just Google it,”?
For many, Google and other popular search engines hold the answer to any question, like an all-knowing God speaking infinite wisdom to its virtual disciples (and slaves).
Undoubtedly, Google is a helpful tool believed by many to scour the deepest darkest corners of the web and retrieve what you’re looking for. Even the most random keywords usually yield something close to what you’re searching for.
Surrounded by an air of both mystery and stigma, the “Deep Web” is not in the toolbox of many average Internet users. For those in the dark, the deep web is a complex network of every document and website that is unindexed but still available online. Because these sites are unindexed, they are undetectable via regular search engines and databases. The deep web is approximately 500 times larger than the more commonly used World Wide Web.
“Searching on the Internet today can be compared to dragging a net across the surface of the ocean. While a great deal may be caught in the net, there is still a wealth of information that is deep, and therefore, missed. The reason is simple: Most of the Web’s information is buried far down on dynamically generated sites, and standard search engines never find it.”
Bergman is the CEO of BrightPlanet, an intelligence agency dedicated to supplying customers with the software they need to harvest data from the deep web. From pharmaceutical companies, to law enforcement, BrightPlanet promises to shed light on the deep web and help you gather the data you need efficiently.
The appeal of the deep web for many, aside from the vast amount of untapped resources, is anonymity. When accessing the deep web, one must do so through a specific software router, the most frequently used is called The Onion Router, more commonly known as TOR . TOR software re-circuits any web activity through a global network of servers that hides the identity of users and conceals their virtual footprint from those who may be watching (Advertisers, Intelligence Agencies, Law Enforcement). In fact, TOR was originally designed by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory, as a way to protect government communications from modern virtual intelligence techniques.
Spiderman’s Uncle Ben said it best, “With great power comes great responsibility,”. Access to Internet content free of security walls, virtual footprints, and pay walls is an opportunity of anonymity that many take full advantage of. Journalists use the deep web when trying to gather sensitive content in secrecy to protect sources and censorship.
On one hand, the potential for benevolence via the deep web is great, but on the other side of morality exists those who wish to hide their identity for less noble purposes.
Enter “The Silk Road,” often referred to as the Amazon.com of illicit drug sales. The Silk Road, shut down in 2013, was a virtual anonymous market place for illegal drugs such as cannabis, ecstasy, opiates as well as firearms, all exchanged with the virtual Bitcoin currency. A few clicks and one virtual transaction later and you could have an array of illegal drugs delivered to your front door within 5-10 business days.
There are other popular sites lurking just beneath the surface of the web that supply child pornography, have hit men for hire and also have medical journals chronicling experiments performed on unwilling human specimens.
Users can also evade firewalls and access files that would usually have security features or privacy settings. This includes files on private intranets (private networks) such as school and employee networks, making it possible to acquire anything you’ve been viewing, sharing, and doing.
But the Privacy settings on my Facebook profile will prevent unwanted eyes from seeing that private Facebook photo album cataloging my drunken nudist escapade right? Wrong. There are companies like Pipl capitalizing on the death of privacy rights. Pipl is dedicated to using the deep web to gather as much information on individuals as requested. Employers use Pipl when running background checks on candidates before offering them employment.
The bottom line is that a hammer can both be used to hit a nail and to crack a skull.
Privacy is the concern of both those with something to hide and those with something to protect. Privacy does not distinguish intention. Much like the deepest parts of our oceans, we have not yet come close to touching the bottom of the deep web. How will our intentions define the potential of this new tool?