How The Dark Web is Overpowering Google in the Search Engine Wars

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The Dark Web will Eclipse Google
by Nikhil Krishna
Btech Civil Engineering & Construction Management, Vellore Institute of Technology, Vellore (2018)
Contributing Author

The Dark Web
It’s a place where online information is password protected, trapped behind paywalls, or requires special software to access—and it’s massive. By some estimates, it is 500 times larger than the surface Web that most people search every day. Yet it’s almost completely out of sight. According to a study published in Nature, Google indexes no more than 16 percent of the surface Web and misses all of the Deep Web. Any given search turns up just 0.03 percent of the information that exists online (one in 3,000 pages). It’s like fishing in the top two feet of the ocean—you miss the virtual Mariana Trench below.

Where is the Dark Web?
Much of the Deep Web’s unindexed material lies in mundane data­bases such as LexisNexis or the rolls of the U.S. Patent Office. But like a Russian matryoshka doll, the Deep Web contains a further hidden world, a smaller but significant community where malicious actors unite in common purpose for ill. Welcome to the Dark Web, sometimes called the Darknet, a vast digital underground where hackers, gangsters, terrorists, and pedophiles come to ply their trade. What follows is but a cursory sampling of the goods and services available from within the darkest recesses of the Internet.

dark web

Things You Can Buy

1. Drugs

Individual or dealer-level quantities of illicit and prescription drugs of every type are available in the digital underground. The Silk Road, the now-shuttered drug superstore, did $200 million of business in 28 months.

2. Counterfeit Currency

Fake money varies widely in quality and cost, but euros, pounds, and yen are all available. Six hundred dollars gets you $2,500 in counterfeit U.S. notes, promised to pass the typical pen and ultraviolet-light tests.

3. Forged Papers

Passports, driver’s licenses, citizenship papers, fake IDs, college diplomas, immigration documents, and even diplomatic ID cards are available on illicit marketplaces such as Onion Identity Services. A U.S. driver’s license costs approximately $200, while passports from the U.S. or U.K. sell for a few thousand bucks.

4. Firearms, Ammunition, and Explosives

Weapons such as handguns and C4 explosives are procurable on the Dark Web. Vendors ship their products in specially shielded packages to avoid x-rays or send weapons components hidden in toys, musical instruments, or electronics.


5. Hitmen

Service providers—including a firm named for the H.P. Lovecraft monster C’thulhu—advertise “permanent solutions to common problems.” For everything from private grudges to political assassinations, these hired guns accept bitcoin as payment and provide photographic proof of the deed.

6. Human Organs

In the darker corners of the Dark Web, a vibrant and gruesome black market for live organs thrives. Kidneys may fetch $200,000, hearts $120,000, livers $150,000, and a pair of eyeballs $1,500.

Things That Make Internet Crime Work

1. Cryptocurrency

Digital cash, such as bitcoin and darkcoin, and the payment system Liberty Reserve provide a convenient system for users to spend money online while keeping their real-world identities hidden.

2. Bulletproof Web-hosting Services

Some Web hosts in places such as Russia or Ukraine welcome all content, make no attempts to learn their customers’ true identities, accept anonymous payments in bitcoin, and routinely ignore subpoena requests from law enforcement.

Cryptocurrencies such as Bitcoin help keep the deep web in business.

3. Cloud Computing

By hosting their criminal malware with reputable firms, hackers are much less likely to see their traffic blocked by security systems. A recent study suggested that 16 percent of the world’s malware and cyberattack distribution channels originated in the Amazon Cloud.

4. Crimeware

Less skilled criminals can buy all the tools they need to identify system vulnerabilities, commit identity theft, compromise servers, and steal data. It was a hacker with just such a tool kit who invaded Target’s point-of-sale system in 2013.

5. Hackers For Hire

Organized cybercrime syndicates outsource hackers-for-hire. China’s Hidden Lynx group boasts up to 100 professional cyberthieves, some of whom are known to have penetrated systems at Google, Adobe, and Lockheed Martin.

6. Multilingual Crime Call Centers

Employees will play any duplicitous role you would like, such as providing job and educational references, initiating wire transfers, and unblocking hacked accounts. Calls cost around $10.

How to Access the Dark Web’s Wares

Anonymizing Browser

Tor—short for The Onion Router—is one of several software programs that provide a gateway to the Dark Web. Tor reroutes signals across 6,000 servers to hide a page request’s origin, making clicks on illicit material nearly impossible for law enforcement to trace. It uses secret pages with .onion suffixes—rather than .com—which are only accessible with a Tor browser.

Secret Search Engines

In mid-2014, a hacker created Grams, the Dark Web’s first distributed search engine. Grams allows would-be criminals to search for drugs, guns, and stolen bank accounts across multiple hidden sites. It even includes an “I’m Feeling Lucky” button and targeted ads where drug dealers compete for clicks.

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the deep web

The Dark Web and Its Deep Levels
by Ryan Thames
Contributing Author

According to Ryan Thames, founder at, the Dark Web goes far deeper than most can imagine.

The Deep or Dark Web is simply a deeper level of the internet which is out of reach of the clearnet, or the internet indexed by search engines. Try to visualize an iceberg – although some of it is visible from above the surface of the water, most of it lies below the surface of the water. This is exactly the same with the Internet. Think of the Deep Web as the submerged section, which is out of reach of the Clearnet, which offers ordinary users services such as Google, Yahoo! etc. as well as similar search engines, which keep an index of websites, as well as optimize your searches.

The Tor Browser
To access the Deep or Dark Web, you will need a Tor browser. Essentially, a Tor browser is a way of getting to .onion websites on the Deep or Dark web. One’s primary concern when browsing on the Deep or Dark Web is anonymity, and that is why Tor is your best bet.

If you are set on accessing the Deep or Dark web, try sites like Hidden Wiki or Search Tor Hidden Services first, which will lead you on to different sites. These are not search engines, but function in a similar manner. Search engines could not work effectively on the Deep or Dark web because of the vast quantities of information, as well as the obscurity of said information. Approximately, 50% of these sites end up being maintained, and as such, crawler software (software used by clearnet search engines) would render useless. This is because of three simple reasons: the encryption levels on the Deep or Dark web make it incredibly hard for crawler software to search as efficiently as it does in the clearnet; the actual network that the Deep or Dark web runs off of is very obscure, and difficult to trace, which is further complicated by complex URLs; and, there are countless duplicate or phishing sites.

For whatever reason, if you remain insistent on accessing the Deep or Dark web, ensure you are familiar with Tor, and be extremely vigilant and aware of what you are doing at all times.

If you want to know more about Tor, privacy, and the Deep or Dark Web, I highly recommend James Smith’s Tor and the Dark Net.

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dark web

The Origins of the Deep Web
by Gunjesh Kumar
Contributing Author

The Deep Web
Deep Web, also known as “Deepnet,” the “Invisible Web,” the “Undernet” or the “hidden Web,” are parts of the Internet that are not considered part of the “surface web,” or the portion of the World Wide Web that is indexed by conventional search engines. Many deep web sites are not indexed because they use dynamic databases that are devoid of hyperlinks and can only be found by performing an internal search query.

The Deep Web also known as The Invisible Web
According to The New York Times, computer scientist Mike Bergman is credited with coining the term “deep web” in a paper titled “The Deep Web: Surfacing Hidden Value” published in The Journal of Electronic Publishing in August of 2001. In the paper, Bergman mentions that Internet business author Dr. Jill Ellsworth coined the phrase “invisible Web” in 1994 when referring to websites that were not indexed by common search engines. The paper also estimated that at the time of publication, information on the deep Web was “400 to 550 times larger than the commonly defined World Wide Web,” or approximately 7,500 terabytes of data.

dark web

A Librarian Launches a Website
On May 29th, 2001, librarian Robert Lackie launched the website Those Dark Hiding Places as a directory for sites that assist in navigating the deep Web. On January 16th, 2002, the website for Deep Web Technologies was launched, which provides the proprietary “Explorit” client for deep web searching. On March 25th, 2003, the tech news blog Campus Technology published an article with links to resources for finding information on the deep Web. On March 9th, 2004, Salon published an article which argued that deep Web search engines have the potential to “give the electorate a powerful lens into the public record.” On June 16th, 2005, Wired reported that Yahoo’s “Search Subscription” service would allow users to search some subscription sites in the deep Web. On December 18th, 2006, the Online Education Database published an “Ultimate Guide to the Invisible Web,” providing background information and tips for navigating deep Web content. On September 25th, 2008, the DeepPeep search engine was started as a project at the University of Utah, which aimed to crawl and index every database on the Internet, including the deep Web. As of January, 2012, the search engine is not available. On February 22nd, 2009, The New York Times published an article about the challenges facing the google search engine in crawling deep Web content.

Operation Darknet:
In October 2011, a group of Anonymous hacktivists launched Operation Darknet (also known as #OpDarknet), which launched a series of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks against Lolita City, a deep Web child pornography website that is only accessible via the TOR anonymous web browser.

Freedom Hosting Network:
On August 1st, 2013, the Federal Bureau of Investigations (FBI) arrested Eric Eoin Marques, a 28-year-old Irishman who owns and operates Freedom Hosting on Tor network, on charges of distributing and promoting child abuse material online. On the following day, approximately half of Freedom Hosting’s hidden services reportedly suffered from malware attacks and taken offline, many of which were suspected to host illegal activities, including the criminal hacking site HackBB, money laundering services and a vast portion of online child pornography.

Related Concepts: TOR
The Onion Router (TOR) is an anonymous browsing client, which allows its users to browse the Internet anonymously by separating identification and routing, thus concealing network activity from surveillance. Some websites on the deep Web can only be accessed via the TOR client.


Silk Road
The Silk Road is an online black market which can only be accessed via the TOR browsing client. Many sellers on the site specialize in trading illegal drugs for Bitcoins, a peer-to-peer digital currency.

Hidden Wiki
The Hidden Wiki is a wiki database that can only be accessed via the TOR browsing client and contains articles and links to other deep Web sites, the Silk Road, assassin markets and child pornography sites.

A type of currency often used in deep Web black markets is the Bitcoin, a peer-to-peer digital currency that regulates itself according to network software, with no more than 21 million Bitcoins issued in total by 2140.

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