Dark web: Shining a light on hidden shadows of internet


The dark web is perceived as the underbelly of the internet world but it’s not all as negative as it may seem, says computer security expert.

The dark web began as an anonymous communication channel for the US government but is now is a term used by the media and in Hollywood movies to refer to hidden online services where people primarily buy and sell items such as illegal drugs or distribute censored content.

However, the dark web is becoming increasingly popular with internet users who simply want to safeguard their privacy online.

Computer Security expert, Professor Sanjay Jha from UNSW School of Computer Science and Engineering, says that while there is the perception that the dark web is mainly a hub for criminal activity, there are many other reasons why someone may use it.

“The name, dark web, is usually painted with a negative image, but in fact there are uses of the dark web which allows you to maintain anonymity,” says Prof Jha.

“Many journalists and political activists use the dark web as a safe place for free speech.”

Deep diving into the layers of the internet

The internet is known to have three layers. The first is the most publicly available part of the internet and what people interact with most on an everyday basis using typical search engines such as Google.

The second layer is called the ‘deep web’ which includes specialised databases that do not come up in usual search engines, although users would typically know how to search for these services.

“The deep web can host servers for things such as scientific papers or medical records and are concealed behind passwords or other security walls,” says Prof Jha, Director of CySpri Laboratory at UNSW.

The third layer is the ‘dark web’ – which is most commonly used for anonymity.

“The dark web was not originally created for criminal activities but obviously some people have become entrepreneurial and decided to use it illegally for their own benefits,” Prof Jha says.

“The technology behind the dark web is reasonably robust in terms of providing users with anonymity which is part of the reason why criminal activity on these networks is harder to track.”

Not your typical search engine

Forget what you know about Google or Yahoo, pages on the dark web won’t show up in your normal search engines. It requires the user to

/Public Release.