The Dark Web has always been the stuff of legend. It’s a large Internet bazaar where the most exotic—and dangerous—items and services are sold. Unfortunately, criminals have been taking advantage of the secrecy it provides in order to operate under the authorities’ noses. Just about anything can be found on the Dark Web: child pornography, prostitution, guns, stolen identities, secrets, military hardware, malware kits, and illicit drugs.
How the Dark Web Remains Under the Radar?
The precursor to the Dark Web is the darknet, a term coined back in the 70s to refer to sites that could not be accessed in the ARPANET, which was developed by the US Defense Department and what would become the technological foundation for the Internet. The modern Dark Web, however, was coined by BrightPlanet in 2001.
The marketplace operates mainly on two peer-to-peer software networks such as the TOR or the I2P. You have to install the software and you can’t download it anywhere else. Somebody must invite you, and people who live in the Dark Web are quite protective of their secret. As communications are direct and encrypted, it’s very hard for the FBI to step in and catch perpetrators.
The system is designed in such a way that as long as the host doesn’t reveal his identity to the world, nobody will know who he or she is.
The Silk Road and Drug Addiction
The Silk Road is an ancient Chinese route which the country is trying to revive. But the Dark Web also has its own Silk Road where drug traffickers thrive.
It’s hard to come across statistics on the illegal drug trade in the Dark Web, because of all the anonymity. From 2013 – 2015, it was estimated that $27 million of illicit drugs were sold via the digital Silk Road. It’s estimated that the drug trade in the Dark Web is worth over $100 million annually.
Among the drugs that are sold in the Dark Net (along with their values) are:
- MMDA and Ecstasy ($7.7MM)
- Marijuana ($5.7MM)
- Cocaine ($5.2MM)
- Speed ($2.3MM)
- Heroin ($1.8MM)
- LSD ($1.5MM)
- Crystal meth ($1.4MM)
Remember that this was in 2015 and the world has changed since then. The stigma of marijuana has lessened with more and more states decriminalizing the use of weed for recreational reasons. On the streets, meth and prescription opioids are becoming more popular because of their accessibility and affordability.
But the Dark Web is not just fueling drug addiction. You can also find a cornucopia of illegal acts there such as:
- Murder for hire
- Exotic animals
- Fenced goods
- Stolen data
- Bomb-making materials and instructions
- Banned chemicals
- Pedophilia and other perverted sexual acts
The Good Side of the Dark Web
The technology itself is neutral, which means it can be used for good or evil. Unfortunately, all the illicit trading across the Dark Web has resulted in a negative perception.
While most people admittedly go to the Dark Net for illegal reasons, in some parts of the world the anonymity provided by the TOR is a godsend. They can wage a revolution while protecting their lives and that of their families.
For instance, the Dark Net is essential in countries with national firewalls, with China as an obvious example. If you are a dissident or a journalist, for example, you can contact somebody from the outside world and get valuable information out about the regime.
A whistleblower will also benefit from the Dark Net by revealing sensitive information while protecting his or her life.
In literature, banned books and materials can be accessed via the Deep Web (which includes the Dark Web).
It can also save lives because there are forums in the Deep Web and the Dark Web where survivors of abuse discuss their experiences. Even those who have suicidal tendencies are able to let out steam and rethink their decision to kill themselves.
A research paper by Michael Chertoff and Tobby Simon titled, “The Impact of the Dark Web on Internet Governance and Cyber Security,” argued for the need to keep online anonymity.
According to the paper, there are several areas where the Dark Web can help save lives:
- When insiders circumvent national firewalls in order to expose wrongdoings from a regime.
- When whistleblowers try to blow the lid on the criminal actions of a large conglomerate.
- When people in a despotic regime need access to information.
- When deep penetration agents need to protect their identities as they provide sensitive information from inside an organized crime syndicate.
- When journalists and bloggers need to protect themselves as they report on the real events happening in restrictive countries.
- When field agents need to relay sensitive information to their handlers without risking exposing themselves.
Hacktivism also thrives on the Dark Web. Depending on where you sit, however, groups like Anonymous are either doing a good thing or, are just mere thugs railing against the establishment.
Clearly, while the encrypted data has become a headache for law enforcement agencies that try to crack down on the drug trade and other criminal activities, there’s the other side of the coin, as well. In light of this, policies that will stop the flow of information or trade need to be studied extensively.
Getting Help for Addiction
If you or your loved ones can’t escape the cycle of addiction, there’s help available. One drawback of rehab is the associated costs. Indeed, rehab is not cheap. With that said, there are available remedies. Insurance companies now include mental health and drug addiction among the list of covered conditions. Also, private drug rehab facilities have their own easy-to-pay financing options for people who can’t afford a one-time payment. Federal and state agencies also subsidize drug treatment for indigents.
Government-run agencies offer free rehab, although the services are limited due to budget. Religious organizations and charity groups also run their own support groups to help recovering patients manage their cravings.