Dark web

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This article is about darknet websites. For the part of the Internet not accessible by traditional search engines, see deep web (search).
Web based Hidden Services January 2015[1]
Category Percentage
(Not yet indexed)

The dark web, also confusingly referred to as the deep web and conflated with deep web search[2][3] is the World Wide Web content that exists on darknets, overlay networks which use the public Internet but which require specific software, configurations or authorization to access.[4] The dark web forms a small part of the Deep Web, the part of the Web not indexed by search engines.[2][5][6][7][8]

The darknets which constitute the dark web include small, friend-to-friend peer-to-peer networks, as well as large, popular networks like Freenet, I2P, and Tor, operated by public organizations and individuals. Users of the dark web refer to the regular web as the Clearnet due to its unencrypted nature.[9] The Tor dark web may be referred to as Onionland,[10] a reference to the network's name as "the onion router."


A December 2014 study by Gareth Owen from the University of Portsmouth found that the most commonly requested type of content on Tor was child pornography, followed by black markets, while the individual sites with the highest traffic were dedicated to botnet operations.[11] Many whistleblowing sites maintain a presence[12] as well as political discussion forums.[13] Cloned websites and other scam sites are numerous.[14] Sites associated with Bitcoin, fraud related services and mail order services are some of the most prolific.[11]

Darknet markets[edit]

Main article: Darknet market

Commercial darknet markets, which mediate transactions for illegal drugs and other goods, attracted significant media coverage starting with the popularity of Silk Road and its subsequent seizure by legal authorities.[15] Other markets sell software exploits[16] and weapons.[17]

Hacking services[edit]

Many hackers sell their services there individually or as a part of groups.[18] Such groups include hackforum, Trojanforge, Mazafaka, dark0de and the TheRealDeal darknet market.[19] Some have been known to track and extort apparent pedophiles.[20]

Fraud and fraud services[edit]

Main article: Carding (fraud)

There are numerous carding forums, as well as fraud and counterfeiting services. Many such sites are scams themselves.[21]


There are reports of crowdfunded assassinations and hitmen for hire,[17][22] however these are believed to be exclusively scams.[23] The creator of Silk Road was arrested by the FBI for his site and allegedly hiring a hitman to kill six people, although the charges were later dropped.[24][25]

Illegal and ethically disputed pornography[edit]

There is regular law enforcement action against sites distributing child pornography[26] – often via compromising the site by distributing malware to the users.[27] Sites use complex systems of guides, forums and community regulation.[28]

Other content includes sexualised torture and killing of animals[29] and revenge porn.[30]

Snuff films[edit]

Main article: Snuff film

There is an urban legend that one can find live murder on the dark web. The term "Red Room" has been coined based on the Japanese animation and urban legend of the same name. However the evidence points towards all reported instances being hoaxes.[31][32]


There are at least some real and fraudulent websites claiming to be used by ISIS, including a fake one seized in Operation Onymous.[33] In the wake of the November 2015 Paris attacks an actual such site was hacked by an Anonymous affiliated hacker group GhostSec and replaced with an an advert for Prozac.[34]


Although much of the dark web is innocuous, some prosecutors and government agencies, among others, are concerned that it is a haven for criminal activity.[35] In 2014, journalist Jamie Bartlett in his book The Dark Net used the dark net and dark web to describe a range of underground and emergent sub cultures, including social media racists, cam girls, self harm communities, darknet drug markets, cryptoanarchists and transhumanists.[36]

Specialist news sites such as DeepDotWeb[37][38] and All Things Vice[39] provide news coverage and practical information about dark web sites and services. The Hidden Wiki and its mirrors and forks hold some of the largest directories of content at any given time.

Popular sources of dark web .onion links include Pastebin, YouTube, Twitter, Reddit and other Internet forums.[40]

In 2015 it was announced that Interpol now offers a dedicated dark web training program featuring technical information on Tor, cybersecurity and simulated darknet market take downs.[41]

In October 2013 the UK's National Crime Agency and GCHQ announced the formation of a 'Joint Operations Cell' to focus on cybercrime.[42] In November 2015 this team would be tasked with tackling child exploitation on the dark web as well as other cybercrime.[43]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Owen, Gareth. "Dr Gareth Owen: Tor: Hidden Services and Deanonymisation". Retrieved 20 June 2015. 
  2. ^ a b Solomon, Jane (6 May 2015). "The Deep Web vs. The dark web". Retrieved 26 May 2015. 
  3. ^ Greenberg, Andy (19 November 2014). "Hacker Lexicon: What Is the dark web?". Wired. Retrieved 27 August 2015. 
  4. ^ Egan, Matt (12 January 2015). "What is the dark web? How to access the dark web - How to turn out the lights and access the dark web (and why you might want to)". Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  5. ^ Greenberg, Andy (19 November 2014). "Hacker Lexicon: What Is the dark web?". Wired. Retrieved 6 June 2015. "Clearing Up Confusion – Deep Web vs. dark web". BrightPlanet. 
  6. ^ NPR Staff (25 May 2014). "Going Dark: The Internet Behind The Internet". Retrieved 29 May 2015. 
  7. ^ The dark web Revealed. Popular Science. . pages 20-21
  8. ^ Greenberg, Andy (19 November 2014). "Hacker Lexicon: What Is the dark web?". Wired. Retrieved 6 June 2015. 
  9. ^ "Clearnet vs hidden services – why you should be careful". DeepDotWeb. Retrieved 4 June 2015. 
  10. ^ Chacos, Brad (12 August 2013). "Meet Darknet, the hidden, anonymous underbelly of the searchable Web". Retrieved 16 August 2015. 
  11. ^ a b Mark, Ward (30 December 2014). "Tor's most visited hidden sites host child abuse images". BBC News. Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  12. ^ "Everything You Need to Know on Tor & the Deep Web". whoishostingthis. Retrieved 18 June 2015. 
  13. ^ Cox, Joseph (25 February 2015). "What Firewall? China’s Fledgling Deep Web Community". Retrieved 19 June 2015. 
  14. ^ Fox-Brewster, Thomas (18 November 2014). "Many Sites That Fell In Epic Onymous Tor Takedown 'Were Scams Or Legit'". Forbes. Retrieved 19 June 2015. 
  15. ^ Burleigh, Nina (19 February 2015). "The Rise and Fall of Silk Road, the dark web's Amazon". Retrieved 25 May 2015. 
  16. ^ Greenberg, Andy (17 April 2015). "New Dark-Web Market Is Selling Zero-Day Exploits to Hackers". Wired. Retrieved 24 May 2015. 
  17. ^ a b Holden, Alex (10 February 2015). "Ukraine crisis: Combatants scouring dark web for advice on bridge bombing and anti-tank missiles". Retrieved 28 May 2015. 
  18. ^ Holden, Alex (15 January 2015). "A new breed of lone wolf hackers are roaming the deep web - and their prey is getting bigger". Retrieved 19 June 2015. 
  19. ^ "Hacking communities in the Deep Web". 15 May 2015. Retrieved 5 September 2015. 
  20. ^ Cox, Joseph (12 November 2015). "A dark web Hacker Is Hunting Potential Pedophiles to Extort Them for Money". Retrieved 12 November 2015. 
  21. ^ DeepDotWeb (28 May 2015). "Secrets to Unmasking Bitcoin Scams – 4 Eye Opening Case Studies". Retrieved 12 November 2015. 
  22. ^ Greenberg, Andy (18 November 2013). "Meet The 'Assassination Market' Creator Who's Crowdfunding Murder With Bitcoins". Forbes. Retrieved 29 August 2015. 
  23. ^ Ormsby, Eileen (3 August 2012). "Conversation with a hitman (or not)". Retrieved 29 August 2015. 
  24. ^ Nicole Hong, "Silk Road Founder Ross Ulbricht Sentenced to Life in Prison", Wall Street Journal, May 29, 2015.
  25. ^ Andy Greenberg, "Silk Road Creator Ross Ulbricht Sentenced to Life in Prison", Wired, May 29, 2015.
  26. ^ Willacy, Mark (26 August 2015). "Secret 'dark net' operation saves scores of children from abuse; ringleader Shannon McCoole behind bars after police take over child porn site". Retrieved 26 August 2015. 
  27. ^ Farivar, Cyrus (16 June 2015). "Feds bust through huge Tor-hidden child porn site using questionable malware". Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  28. ^ Evans, Robert (16 June 2015). "5 Things I Learned Infiltrating Deep Web Child Molesters". Retrieved 29 August 2015. 
  29. ^ Cox, Joseph (11 November 2014). "As the FBI Cleans the Dark Net, Sites Far More Evil Than Silk Road Live On". Retrieved 3 August 2015. 
  30. ^ Markowitz, Eric (10 July 2014). "The Dark Net: A Safe Haven for Revenge Porn?". Retrieved 3 August 2015. 
  31. ^ Ormsby, Eileen (29 August 2015). "Waiting in the Red Room". Retrieved 29 August 2015. 
  32. ^ Howell O'Neill, Patrick (28 August 2015). "Dark Net site promised to livestream torture and execution of 7 ISIS jihadists". Retrieved 29 August 2015. 
  33. ^ Cub, Nik (17 November 2014). "FBI seizes fake Tor hosted Jihad funding website as part of Operation Onymous, leaves up real site.". Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  34. ^ Cuthbertson, Anthony (25 November 2015). "Hackers replace dark web Isis propaganda site with advert for Prozac". Retrieved 25 November 2015. 
  35. ^ Lev Grossman (11 November 2013). "The Secret Web: Where Drugs, Porn and Murder Live Online". TIME.com. 
  36. ^ Ian, Burrell (28 August 2014). "The Dark Net:Inside the Digital Underworld by Jamie Bartlett, book review". The Independent (London). Retrieved 3 June 2015. 
  37. ^ Swearingen, Jake (2 October 2014). "A Year After Death of Silk Road, Darknet Markets Are Booming". Retrieved 24 May 2015. 
  38. ^ Franceschi-Bicchierai, Lorenzo (13 May 2015). "Hackers Tried To Hold a Darknet Market For a Bitcoin Ransom". Retrieved 19 May 2015. 
  39. ^ Solon, Olivia (3 February 2013). "Police crack down on Silk Road following first drug dealer conviction". Retrieved 27 May 2015. 
  40. ^ Koebler, Jason (23 February 2015). "The Closest Thing to a Map of the Dark Net: Pastebin". Retrieved 14 July 2015. 
  41. ^ Ricard (2 August 2015). "Interpol dark web Training Course". Retrieved 8 August 2015. 
  42. ^ Rose, David (13 October 2013). "Secrets of the UK's new FBI: Police chief reveals elite force of 5,000 'super' agents will wage a high-tech manhunt for Britain's most wanted criminals". Retrieved 9 November 2015. 
  43. ^ Box, Joseph (8 November 2015). "The UK Will Police the dark web with a New Task Force". Retrieved 9 November 2015. 

Further reading[edit]