Everything You Need to Know on TOR & the Deep Web
The Internet has, in its storied history, been compared to many things: a river; a superhighway; and, perhaps most famously, a series of tubes. But as it turns out, the most apt comparison of all just might be an iceberg.
Like the mighty floes that break off from glaciers, only 10% of the network we call “the Internet” is visible to the general public. Hidden below the virtual waterline lies a tangled and secretive network known as the Deep Web. Unindexed by search engines, and accessible only with special browsers such as The Onion Router (TOR), the Deep Web is made up of peer-to-peer connections, which allow users to share files directly (and secretly).
The Deep Web has a strong appeal to privacy advocates, who have taken advantage of the lack of tracking to shield their anonymity from advertisers and officials alike. Whistleblower Edward Snowden used the Deep Web to collect much of the information that carried him into a worldwide controversy, and journalists around the world are coming to rely on it as a more secure alternative to the public Web when searching for sensitive or dangerous information.
But the secretive nature of the network has also made it a haven for criminals of various stripes, trafficking in everything from illegal drugs to child pornography. The Silk Road, an online marketplace driven by Internet currency Bitcoin, dominated headlines in 2013 when authorities succeeding in shutting it down. The site had a reputation as the Internet’s go-to destination for illicit drug sales (including thousands of listings for heroin, cocaine, and methamphetamines), and its demise spawned both a crowd-sourced documentary from actor Alex Winter and a bevy of successors eager to capitalize on the fall of their better-known sibling.
Companies such as AT&T, eager to review, track, and control activity within its fuzzy borders, are working tirelessly to bring light to the corners of the Deep Web. Government officials and law enforcement agencies, concerned about piracy, illegal trafficking, and leaks, are in the strange position of attempting to police the same wild ‘n’ wooly netherworld they rely on for their own clandestine operations. But scandals, secrets, and skulkers will always find their way to the shadowiest parts of the Web, and while the future of the Deep Web may be as murky as its labyrinthine tangles, it’s sure to remain a part of Internet lore for years to come.
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