Despite the potential for confusion between similar sounding names, the deep web and the dark web are different online spaces, but lawyers should be familiar with both.
The differences between the two were explained by Mark D. Penner, a partner in the intellectual property (IP) group at Fasken LLP and by Daniel Tobok, CEO of Cypfer, a Toronto-based online security company, during the 8th Fasken Toronto Symposium, held on June 7, 2018.
Penner and Tobok presented a session titled “Why you should still be afraid of the dark: the dark web and why you need to understand what it is and what it does.”
“Everything you see on the deep web or the dark web are items that are not archived or meta-tagged by the search engines, that’s the reasons you cannot see them,” he said.
Tobok described the dark web as the place to go to buy everything from stolen identification and fake passports, to pirated copyrighted content (“Napster on steroids”), to adult content to stolen credit cards. Ransomware is also available on the dark web. (Ransomware as a service is a $140 billion business in North America, according to Tobok.) Penner added that counterfeit goods can also be found on the dark web.
“Imagine you are walking into a flea market with no lights, and just criminals hanging around there in dark trench coats, talking in various languages that you don’t understand,” Tobok said.
“The dark web is a fairly scary place because you can buy anything from a hand grenade delivered to your door, to a child slave, to a hit for as low as US$1,800 to illegal porn. It’s a fairly scary place where a lot of crazy things go on.”
“If you’re not using a proper protection when communicating with these people, it is very easy to hunt you down. Because they’ll give you a file, they’ll look at the file and right away, it will tell them your location. This is not something out of Mission Impossible II. This is a real thing. It’s very easy. It has been around for a very long time.”
Just because it’s potentially dangerous, however, that doesn’t mean people should avoid the areas of the Internet below the surface, said Topek, telling the audience “that it’s good to explore” the hidden parts of the web.
“I always caution everybody to go and create a new hobby of searching things on the dark web and see how much you can get for that unicorn you found,” he said, joking about the type of obviously fake and fraudulent items that are often listed for sale on the dark web, “but you just have to be protected. It’s like entering a flea market with a bunch of criminals. It’s not for the faint of heart.”
He suggested people who go out and explore the deep or dark web “do a bit of reading” to gain an understanding of the technology, “mask your IP, use a VPN, make sure you protect yourself.”
Unlike the modern surface web, Topek said the dark websites are a lot plainer, with basic HTML, very little multi-media content, cartoon graphics, a lot of data and information and a look and feel that would have been common on websites designed between 2001 and 2005.
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