How Dangerous Is The Deep Web?

16 billion people go online every day to shop, update social media, and check their email

But popular search engines like Google and Yahoo barely scratch the surface of internet usage The majority of users can only access 1% of all the information the World Wide Web has to offer The rest, deep beneath the surface of conventional search engines, is known as the Deep Web Many websites on the Deep Web can only be accessed through unique web browsers like ‘Tor’ By concealing their identity and traceable IP address, Tor offers its users almost complete anonymity

This lack of accountability means that the Deep Web is now a hotbed for criminal activity It has become a breeding ground for illicit drug use, violence, pedophilic behavior – and now even poses a threat to our national security One of the deep web’s most successful online vendors is ‘Silk Road’ Founded in February 2011, Silk Road was a booming illegal drug market, which generated $12 billion in revenue

The site sold a variety of substances, including cannabis, cocaine, crystal meth, and MDMA At least six people are known to have died overdosing on drugs purchased through Silk Road In October 2013, Silk Road was shut down by the FBI However, similar sites were immediately rolled out to meet the ‘high’ demand for drugs Guns, knives and other deadly weapons are also available for purchase with the simple click of a mouse on the Deep Web

And, if you’re not willing to use such weapons yourself, numerous websites advertise the services of hitmen who will carry out murders for you ‘Hitman Network’ offers to assassinate a target within three weeks – the only rules being ‘no children under 16 and no top 10 politicians’ Prices on these sites range from $10,000 to $200,000 depending on the profession of the intended victim Criminals can now also purchase your personal information, meaning that the Deep Web has gained a reputation as an active hub of financial fraud Between 2013 and 2015 cyber criminals from China hacked the United States

They stole crucial information from the government and key corporations, breaching 4 million people's records Individuals are also readily targeted online – credit card details can be bought online for as little as $10 According to Forbes, merchants in the United States are losing $190 billion a year to such fraud But perhaps one of the biggest online terrors is the expansion and concealment of online pedophillic communities They exist primarily in a subsection of the deep web, known as the dark web

These secret websites encourage users to share images and videos of child pornography and abuse, which is generating a widespread pedophile threat across the globe In 2015, Childcare worker Shannon McCoole was arrested for running such a site, which ranked members based on the amount of child exploitation material they uploaded He was sentenced to 35 years imprisonment for sexually abusing at least seven children Frighteningly, McCoole’s behaviour is not that unusual According to The Guardian, 80% of internet traffic on the dark web is child abuse material

And the very nature of the Deep Web makes it impossible to regulate Black market websites that replaced Silk Road prove that the authorities’ attempts to shut down specific sites actually have little impact on criminals’ abilities to operate online Countless pedophillic sites still exist, despite the efforts of organisations like Internet Watch to catch perpetrators This is largely because of the unfathomable size of the Deep Web, which is approximately 500 times larger than the ‘Surface Internet’ Not only are our children and health in greater danger, but thanks to the Deep Web, our national security is more at risk than ever before

The anonymity of the Deep Web allows extremist groups to communicate and plot terrorist attacks outside of the reaches of security services There are even documents online that offer step-by-step instructions for creating lethal explosives A British counter-terrorism unit is currently taking down 100 threatening websites a day However, internet safety expert John Carr believes that this is still not enough, as it’s almost impossible for law enforcement agencies to track the online activity of terrorists But not everything on the deep web is harmful

Lots of mainstream web-users regularly create test versions of their websites on the deep web, so they can check content before it goes live The Deep Web also offers a lifeline to those living under brutal political regimes It allows people living in North Korea and China to bypass dictatorial censorship laws, by accessing news from around the world, and communicating the struggles they face But despite the salvation it offers, the deep web is first and foremost a gateway for illegal activity It enables the proliferation of the black market, and bypasses laws that exist to protect our very existence

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