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The Dark Web: The Internet’s Third Layer

Beneath accessible websites and pages that require passwords to get into lies a hidden (and somewhat chaotic) side of the internet known as the Dark Web. Because of the way it’s accessed, the Dark Web allows users to remain anonymous while doing things online. Although it has an ominous-sounding name, it’s used by various people across the globe for several different reasons. Unfortunately, criminals have found ways to use it to conduct illicit business.

The Layered Internet

What people might not know about the internet is that, in essence, it’s made up of three different layers.

The first layer of the internet, called the surface web, contains websites people generally visit daily. This includes things like shopping sites, social media platforms, attorney’s pages, and search engines.

Below the top layer is what is known as the deep web. Although sometimes used interchangeably with the Dark Web, the second layer is a separate section that isn’t as nefarious as it sounds. The deep web contains things that search engines can’t just direct a user to. This layer includes pages that require a password or authorization to access, such as an email or bank account.

The third layer is where the Dark Web can be found. Like the other sections of the internet, it contains websites, forums, and even social media pages. However, unlike the first two layers, the Dark Web can’t be accessed with just any web browser; a person looking to get into it must use something like the TOR browser.

TOR’s Origin Story and How it Works

Interestingly, TOR (The Onion Router) was developed by the U.S. Government. In the mid-1990s, employees at the United States Naval Research Laboratory sought a way to allow government agents to anonymously send messages across the internet. Their solution was TOR.

Anticipating that others might be able to intercept the government’s messages if only a few people were using it, the researchers opened TOR up to the public. According to the Tor Project, millions of people use TOR today.

TOR is both a browser and a network that allows users to remain anonymous by creating different layers to hide a person’s information when accessing different websites. Basically, when someone uses TOR to get to a webpage, their web traffic travels through a bunch of different servers before landing on the target site. The more people use the software, the more paths web traffic must go through, creating greater anonymity.

The Uses of the Dark Web

There are various reasons a person would use the Dark Web as opposed to the surface web. Some people might live in countries where specific sites are restricted. For example, if a foreign journalist was trying to write a story, but was blocked by their repressive regime, they could conceal their IP address with a browser like TOR and get the information they need. There are also legitimate sites an individual can access on the Dark Web, such as chess clubs and social networking.

The Dark Web wasn’t designed with criminal intent in mind. It was developed as a way to allow people to access content without fear of being tracked. Unfortunately, because it provides anonymity, it has become attractive to people who don’t always have the best intentions.

Criminals have used the Dark Web for various dealings, including:

  • Blackmail schemes
  • Contract killings
  • Drug sales
  • Firearm sales
  • Sex trafficking rings
  • Child pornography distribution

Law Enforcement Efforts to Stop Illegal Dark Web Activity

Because the Dark Web allows people to remain anonymous and conduct illicit transactions online, various law enforcement agencies across the globe have been ramping up efforts to stop criminal activity. They are working to sort and catalog the connections on this third layer of the internet to identify people using it for nefarious means. Some of their efforts include going undercover to connect with people who have criminal intentions; others involve using software to hack into a user’s computer and reveal their IP address.

In Colorado, over 100 law enforcement officials attended training provided by special agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Security Investigations. Their focus was on the increase in drug-related cybercrimes committed on the Dark Web to combat the country’s opioid crisis.

The training covered topics regarding the complexities of Dark Web investigations and sites criminals use to sell and distribute controlled substances. The special agents also went over how these individuals use cryptocurrency in these types of transactions, as it allows for money to be transferred anonymously.

Need Aggressive Legal Defense? Contact David L. Owen, Jr., P.C.

If you were charged with a criminal offense, our attorney, David L. Owen, Jr., is here to provide skilled legal guidance throughout your case. He has over 30 years of trial experience and knows how to develop effective defense strategies to fight charges.

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