In the last part of this series I introduced you to the shadowy underworld of the internet – The Dark Web.
This time, I plan to reveal a little more about this mysterious and elusive neighbourhood of The Dark Web, and touch upon how it got started and where it might be headed.
To quickly recap, last time we learned that the dark web is basically an anonymous marketplace and hotbed of political activism. We learned that the authorities in every country are having an increasingly hard time managing it, and that one of the biggest darkweb marketplaces “The Silk Road” was brought down and Ross Ulbricht, the alleged founder, jailed for the rest of his life.
So how did the dark web get started? What led to such a sinister yet fascinating place to begin with?
To understand, we have to look back into the subculture of computer hacking and the values that subgroup of society hold.
In the late 90’s I got my first computer and was immediately fascinated by the doors this machine unlocked to me. I spent countless hours on this piece of junk learning things I never knew existed, and eventually decided to understand how they worked. Naturally, seeking deeper knowledge about computers leads one into the world of computer hacking, and the hackers themselves.
Back then the big players where Portwolf (a legend who had served time in prison for hacking US government server) and Solider X, a group dedicated to absolute anonymity and privacy on the web. As I delved into this fascinating world I quickly learned that the biggest enemy of computer hackers, and the very thing they seek to escape most, is authority and government.
Naturally, this led to the dark web, the ultimate hacker paradise fused with libertarian economic ideals (anything goes as long as it is voluntary and between free adults).
It may have taken a decade for the technology to catch up and the internet to evolve to these colossal, global levels… but it is here, and so the dark web has become a reality!
Ironically the dark web would have stayed very much in the dark if the FBI and DEA had not made such a high-profile scene out of shutting down Silkroad. Of course, they made it high-profile on purpose, the purpose being to send a message to dark web participants that they were onto them. It backfired and within days there were several replacements and many more users.
So what we have in the darkweb is a synthesis of people from vastly different subcultures with a common goal: absolute freedom. The freedom to do as you please without asking for permission, the freedom to say what you want without being put on a list, the freedom to sell what you want without being taxed or imprisoned. This is the common ideal behind the different participants of the dark web, and so far, in the vast majority of cases, it has been a success.
That’s the dark web today and that’s where it started, but where might it lead in the future?
The answer largely depends on technology and the race to create and control it. It depends on who will have the upper hands – the powers that be or the stealth, rule breaking hackers and criminals. For the first time these two underworld elements have combined and are now a formidable force to be reckoned with, causing the FBI and the DEA among others many sleepless nights.
My money is one the hackers and the criminals. I honestly think that they will always have the upper hand and stay ahead of the curve because of one simple fact: they are not bound by the beauracracy and rules they so despise. They are quick, sleek, they evolve and move and use every situation to their advantage. By the time the government has obtained a warrant and launch an investigation it’s already too late, the sites under question may have moved servers or changed their encryption.
What we are seeing is literally a battle of ideals – it is order versus chaos. It is much more than a marketplace or a community. The Dark Web is liberty versus control.
Common sense says a balance needs to be struck between the two, and most readers would agree. For now, however, anarchy reigns supreme on the dark web, and as cloaking technology and mega-proxies evolve and grow, those willing to break the rules will seemingly always have the upper hand.
So how exactly does the dark web work from a technological standpoint? How does a multi-layered proxy and ip spoofer shield a computer user from snoops and spies? How does Bitcoin, the untrackable crypto-currency work?
We’ll answer those three questions and more in part three in just a few days. Stay tuned for more!