Google: Demystifying the deep, dark web
Wambui Virginia @PeopleDailyKE
Kenya was ranked the second country with the fastest Internet in Africa in 2018 and is said to have a 115 per cent Internet penetration. Most people in urban areas have a smartphone on which they access social media platforms and connect with others online.
The report also indicated an average person spends close to seven hours a day on the Internet. Consequently, they provide quite a lot of information about themselves on the World Wide Web that makes it easy to know who they are.
By just looking at their social media, you can know what they like, who their families are, where they hang out or even where they work.
However, not all these people have gone past the surface web, where search engines like Google and Yahoo provide general information and searchable content.
Here the sites are indexed (the process of matching websites with keywords to make it easy for users to access any website).
For example, when you search for the word ‘Facebook’, Google and other search engines will provide list of the social media platform and other news connected to it. It is also where most of us communicate.
Little do many people know that the Internet has another world of its own: the deep web. This is the complete opposite of the surface web.
“The deep web is not a place and it has zero criminal activity. It simply accounts for the unindexed information. It’s all the raw data that Google doesn’t know or even care about.
For instance, in an office environment, there is an internal network that is used to communicate. Also personal information like bank data would not be found on Google. This is what you would find on the deep web,” explains Rennis Njoroge, an IT expert working in a local bank.
It is easy to confuse the deep web and the dark web.
“The dark net or the dark web is an area on the internet where information is actively hidden from public view. It can only be accessed by specific tools such as special browsers which mask your browsing,” he adds.
Will you find crime? Yes. But not in the way it has been shown on TV shows. Besides, crime is not the primary use of the dark net nor why it was built.
The dark net is just another tool used by government agencies, journalists, dissidents and countries with hostile governments, whistle blowers and other regular folks who want to create and utilise anonymous online communities.
Just like any other space, it harbours illegal activities, including the black market where they sell drugs, primarily marijuana. Items such as guns have been sold on the dark web, but not always successfully.
“There have been cases of human trafficking and child pornography on the dark web, but significantly less than is available on the surface web.
There is no evidence of terrorist activity or hitmen services on the dark web although there are hoax and scam sites that claim these services. Law enforcers operate most of these sites to lure unsuspecting digital criminals and cons,” Njoroge adds.
One of the popular cons is Ross Ulbricht, an American computer programmer, who created an anonymous online marketplace and forum, Silk Road, on the dark net.
He used Bitcoin, an unregulated digital currency, to run a platform where drugs, including illegal drugs, were sold. It came to be known as the ‘Amazon of illegal drugs’.
Ross was finally arrested, charged and sent to prison for life in 2015 for multiple crimes, some of which are reserved for hard-core drug cartels. He claimed he started Silk Road to create an online market where traders would transact privately and anonymously.
“The truth is there are dark things happening on the dark web, although not as much as it has been reported; besides, law enforcement is all over it.
The thing is it is difficult to conduct crime on the dark net, because, getting into the dark net is difficult and is harder to navigate through,” says Rogers Maina, an IT expert.
IT experts caution users against carelessly accessing the dark web. Safety aspects to consider include, the presence of criminal elements on the dark web, where they not only sell illegal goods but also exploit and steal from unsuspecting users.
Depending on the sites you visit, you might be prosecuted for things you do. “Digital criminals are among the most easily tracked and caught people. It’s quite hard to remain anonymous on the Internet where the slightest mistake can expose your entire history of activity.
The thing is people in power have demonised the dark net so that people can stay away,” he says, adding that since it allows privacy and anonymity, it will cause the powerful to lose control.
“However sadly, we have been hacked. Our information is out there: personal details, medical records and even insurance details. It’s all in other people’s hands and that leaves us at a point of vulnerability since we can be easily exploited,” Maina concludes.