Posted by Shemmyla Green
April 19, 2015
We are living in a menacing world today where our every move is tracked and our most personal and valuable information is copied and stored. Our phones track our locations. Our credit card transactions track our purchases. Our Internet searches track our interest and inquiries. Every technological device we own is storing data about us, not to mention all of the additional voluntary information we give up on social media. This information is available to those that are tech savvy enough to access it. Some groups have a vested interest in this information e.g., big business, terrorists and especially the Government. As cliché as it may sound, “Big Brother Is Watching You.” For this very reason, many people are taking to Deep Web to become anonymous in their Internet activities. But is the Deep Web truly anonymous?
I came across that article about Alex Winter and his documentary titled Deep Web. The documentary is based on the Darknet, Tor, and the Silk Road. In the documentary it addresses the issues of the case of the Silk Road online black market. The said mastermind, Ross Ulbricht a.k.a. Dread Pirate Roberts (which is being disputed) was caught by what some are saying was an illegal seizure of Silk Road’s servers, which were in Iceland, by the FBI. Seemingly it’s as though we live in a time where we have to ask the question, ‘Do we want to allow drug dealers, sex traffickers, pedophiles, illegal arms dealers and terrorists to remain anonymous on the Darknet to protect the 4th Amendment rights of the majority?’ It’s been the underlining ultimatum the US government has been conveying to its citizens.
What are the Deep Web, Darknet and Tor?
When I heard the terms Deep Web, Darknet and Tor, I wanted to get a better understanding of what they were. Here is my breakdown. Content on the World Wide Web that is available to the general public and for indexing by a search engine, is called the surface web. The surface web is what majority of the Internet users utilize daily. These activities include websites, Google, Facebook, Twitter and other social media. The surface web only makes up 4% of the Internet and the Deep Web makes up 96%, which is about 500x greater in size. Deep Web, is a term that refers to Internet properties that can’t be found or accessed through ordinary means like searching on Google. Deep Web is neither good nor bad, it’s just how you use it.
Darknet is a subsection of Deep Web that is accessed by Tor. Tor is a web browser, like Chrome or Safari, and free software that helps you defend against traffic analysis, a form of network surveillance that threatens personal freedom and privacy, confidential business activities and relationships, and state security. It sends Internet data through a series of ‘relays’, adding extra encryption, making web traffic practically impossible to trace. This is the place where much of the anonymous dark, perverted, creepy and illegal activity is, but is it truly anonymous? If the FBI truly seized the Silk Road’s servers illegally and based off what has been discovered about NSA and Prism, the answer is no.
“There is no such thing as really being anonymous on the Internet. If [hackers and government agencies] want you, they will get you. At the moment the Tor network’s security has never been broken, but there are flaws around it that can be exploited,” Andy Malone, of Microsoft Enterprise Security and founder of the Cyber Crime Security Forum, said at the Microsoft TechEd North America 2014.
Now let’s discuss PRISM and the NSA. PRISM is a tool used by the US National Security Agency (NSA) to collect private electronic data belonging to users of major Internet services like Gmail, Facebook, Outlook, and others. It’s the latest evolution of the US government’s post-9/11 electronic surveillance efforts, which began under President Bush with the Patriot Act, and expanded to include the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) amended in 2006 and 2007. NSA programs collect two kinds of data: metadata and content. Metadata is the sensitive byproduct of communications, such as phone records that reveal the participants, times, and durations of calls; the communications collected by PRISM include the contents of emails, chats, VoIP calls, cloud-stored files, and more. This method of catching criminals appears very intrusive to the average law abiding citizen and is a violation of our 4th Amendment rights. In order to obtain search warrant law enforcement officers must:
2. Support this showing with sworn statements (affidavits), and
Not the polar opposite method.
There is another way to search Internet data that is legal and gaining recognition. DARPA has created a search engine that search crawlers are able catch things that Google misses. According to Forbes:
DARPA’s Memex search technologies have garnered much interest due to their initial mainstream application: to uncover human trafficking operations taking place on the “dark web”, the catch-all term for the various internet networks the majority of people never use, such as Tor, Freenet and I2P. And a significant number of law enforcement agencies have inquired about using the technology. But Memex promises to be disruptive across both criminal and business worlds.
I believe Memex is the future of Internet policing and is actually proven to work.
There will always be the fight of good versus evil and those that want to shine a light in the darkness. The sad true is that there are always going to be brilliant criminals. In the future, the Deep Web doesn’t seem like it will be as anonymous as it once was, but there are some tech geniuses out there creating something more secure, I’m sure.