The perspective: Chad Brockway is a former program manager for the Special Technologies and Applications Section (STAS) at the FBI, and also served as the Deputy Watch Center Director for the Department of Defense Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA) at the Bureau. He is currently the Vice President, Cyber Operations Division at Edgeworth Security.
Five years ago, the dark web was this thing that people had heard about, but mostly didn’t understand, not fully realizing what it was or how it worked. The dark web had just always been this place where “really bad stuff happened”, and the only people who accessed it were carrying out illegal activity.
To those in the know, the dark web was the place to go to satiate any type of vice or perversion. Through various onion marketplaces, forums, and interest sites, users had access to everything from illegal narcotics to weapons to extreme pornography and other perverse materials. It was where the worst of the worst happened on the internet. Now, the whole landscape of the dark web is changing.
Within the past few years, there has been a significant growth in the use of the dark web on a global level. While illegal activities still take place, there has been a huge growth in the number of every day users on the dark web, spurred by a better understanding of the dark web itself as well as a few key global events, like the usage of crypto-currency, privacy concerns and rights, and free access.
One of the biggest factors in the growth of the dark web is directly linked to the level of access and security it can offer users, allowing them to conduct their daily business without fear of being monitored or targeted by large-scale corporations or government entities. Browsers such as The Onion Router (TOR) sends user traffic across a worldwide network utilizing different nodes along the way that masks the user’s origin and effectively, their identity as well. This is very appealing to users who are concerned about privacy, true access to information and the freedom of speech and thought.
This can also be an attractive option for users who may reside in a country where internet usage and access is closely monitored and restricted, and where risk and punishment go hand in hand with violating those restrictions. The type of content, access and protection provided by accessing the dark web can be very appealing to these user groups.
Right now, only about 4% of the world wide web is accessed through standard browsers and search engines. That leaves a massive amount of information and content that users, for the most part, don’t even know is there. The remainder of internet content is made available on the deep and dark web, and as more users become aware of that, we will see a massive migration into those dark web data environments. With the added availability of mirrored sites into the dark web, displaying the same material as on their origin sites, users are quickly learning that the dark web can be their one-stop shop for all of their needs, while minimizing their online footprint.
Looking ahead, as standard users gain a better understanding of what the dark web is and how to access and navigate it, it is highly likely that today’s browsers and search engines will become a thing of the past. People are becoming more aware of the risks to their information and identities in addition to the massive restrictions being placed upon them by regulating or governing authorities. In an effort to protect themselves and have free access to a much large source of information, the dark web will become the new standard for “surfing the web”.
Read also The Future of the Dark Web