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Dark Web: the hidden internet

By Lisa Brody
News Editor
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07/26/2017 - Lurking in the shadows of the internet, peeking out in popular films, television shows and novels, the dark web has become a villainous plot device that infers illegal drugs, guns, pornography, hired killers, and conspiracies. On the popular TV show "Scandal," the team bids on the dark web to get Olivia Pope back; on "House of Cards," a character uses the dark web to unearth a hacker; Sherlock accesses information via the dark web on several occasions on the show "Elementary"; and the dark web is a key plot element in novels such as Lee Child's "Make Me." Yet, for a majority of us, what the dark web actually is remains an enigma, a mysterious element floating out there somewhere on the internet.

For most people who use computers, forays into searches are by using Google, Yahoo or some other search engine, which allows them to find information about just about anything. In actuality, what we think of the internet is only a small portion of the world wide web the 'www' before many web addresses. The first workable prototype of what we now view as the internet was created in the 1960s, with the creation of ARPANET, which stands for Advanced Research Projects Agency Network. It was funded by the U.S. Department of Defense to allow multiple computers to communicate on a single network. Networks continued to grow through the 1970s, and Internet Protocol (IP) addresses were developed. In 1983, ARPANET adopted IP, with researchers assembling more and more networks, which became the modern internet. In 1990, a computer scientist created the world wide web.

Researchers say that only four percent of the internet is visible to the general public, which means that possibly 96 percent is the dark or deep web, which experts call the "second layer" of the internet. The dark web is a part of the world wide web that exists outside of the traditional internet, in a part often referred to as the darknet, which requires a user to download a specific software or put in specific configurations to access. It is a collection of websites that are publicly visible, but hide the IP addresses of the servers that run the sites, so it's next to impossible to determine where the sites are hosted, and by whom.

To get there takes encryption tools and special software, and is an ideal place for those seeking anonymity, both for privacy sake, as well as illegal activities. However, experts believe the total population of dark net websites number only in the hundreds of thousands, rather than the millions, like on the "clear" net, which is the internet we all utilize. Security experts estimate that at any given time there are between 10,000 and 100,000 active sites on the darknet, with sites regularly disappearing or being yanked from servers by law enforcement or those who work to destabilize hackers and other illegitimate sites.

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