Exploring the Dark Web: An unseen world of hidden markets and networks

By Dr. Sivaraman Eswaran

There are literally billions of sites on the Internet, but search engines such as Google and Bing do not index approximately 90 per cent of them. This indicates that only a small part of the Internet can be found with search engines. There are parts of the internet that regular search engines cannot get to and there are also pages that are not indexed in any manner.

Shallow Web vs Deep Web vs Dark Web

If we think of the Web as a sea, the Shallow Web is the top of the sea which goes on for miles and is easy to see. The Deep Web is the deeper portion of the sea below the surface and the Dark Web is the bottom of the sea that can only be reached with special tools.

The Shallow Web, also known as the Surface Web, refers to the portion of the Internet that is indexed by search engines and accessible through standard web browsers. This includes websites that are publicly accessible and can be found using search engines such as Google, Bing and Yahoo. Examples of shallow web sites include news sites, social media platforms and e-commerce sites.

The Deep Web refers to the portion of the Internet that is not indexed by search engines and cannot be accessed using standard web browsers. This includes websites and private databases that are password-protected, hidden behind paywalls, or otherwise inaccessible to the public. Examples of deep web sites include online banking systems, medical records and academic databases. To access the Deep Web, you will need to know the specific URL or have special software or authorisation.

The Dark Web, meanwhile, is a subset of the Deep Web that is intentionally hidden and can only be accessed using specialised software such as the Tor browser or Onion Router. It includes websites and services that are intentionally hidden and often associated with illegal activities, such as drug-trafficking, weapons sales, selling stolen data, hacking services and private communications. The Dark Web is a controversial and often misunderstood part of the Internet. While it is often used for illegal purposes, it is also used by journalists, activists and others who need a secure and anonymous way to communicate and share information.

Here are 10 mind-blowing facts about the Dark Web:

  1. The Dark Web is estimated to be 500 times larger than the Surface Web.
  2. Dark Web activity has increased by 300 per cent in the last three years.
  3. Your identity is on sale on the Dark Web. Passwords for individual bank accounts can range up to US$160, and your entire identity could only cost around US$1,200.
  4. Stolen credit cards are often sold on the Dark Web. Other pirates will use stolen credit cards to buy gift cards and then sell them for less than their worth.
  5. The Dark Web is a huge marketplace for criminals and is said to generate at least US$500,000 per day.
  6. One of the most popular Dark Web marketplaces, the Silk Road, generated over US$1.2 billion in sales before being shut down by the FBI in 2013.
  7. Users regularly depend on bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies to make market transactions. These are especially popular because they are virtually untraceable.
  8. On the Dark Web, you will be even more susceptible to malware attacks with plenty of links hiding secret malware that will download to your computer.
  9. An astonishing 25,927,476 passwords that belong to employees at Fortune 1000 companies were readily available in Dark Web markets and data dumps.
  10. Your data may already be on the Dark Web, even if you have not had a breach.

Dr. Sivaraman Eswaran is a senior lecturer of computing (cyber security) in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Curtin University Malaysia’s Faculty of Engineering and Science. Prior to joining Curtin University Malaysia, Dr. Sivaraman was an associate professor of computer science and engineering at PES University, Bangalore, India. He completed his PhD at Bharathiar University, Coimbatore in 2019, and passed the National Eligibility Test (NET) and Tamil Nadu State Eligibility Test (TN SET) for Assistant Professor, Computer Science and Application conducted by the University Grants Commission and the Government of Tamil Nadu respectively. In addition, he is a CompTIA Security+ certified professional and EC-Council Certified Computer Hacking Forensic Investigator. He is also a Microsoft Certified Professional and EMC Academic Associate, and a registered volunteer in the National Security Database to assist and guide cybercrime victims. Dr. Sivaraman is a senior member of the global Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) and a member of the Association for Computing (ACM). His research interests include cyber security, 5G networks and cloud computing. He has published several research papers in refereed journals and conferences. Dr. Sivaraman can be contacted by email to sivaraman.eswaran@curtin.edu.my.