Since I was a kid, I’ve always loved hidden passages. I grew up in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. When I was little, there was nothing I liked more than finding those hidden mountain trails and places people set up in the woods.
My fascination with the hidden continued as I grew up. When I was in my late teens and early twenties, I never wanted to go to the party everyone was talking about. I wanted to go to the hidden parties. My weekends were spent whispering passwords to convenience store cashiers, so I could get complicated directions to some party in a run down warehouse.
The destination was never what excited me. Most of those parties were just drinking and dancing in a run down place (with significantly more X). Those places in the woods I found were usually just hidden playgrounds and swimming holes. It wasn’t the destination that was fun. It was the way I got there.
When the internet came out, and I found my first hidden webpage (it was an LSD recipe I tried with limited success), I realized that the search for the hidden, and the sometimes forbidden, never had to end.
I knew about Silk Road before it was a household name. I’d browsed their listings of arms dealers, assassins, drug dealers, hackers for hire and more, just for a chuckle. There was literally nothing that you couldn’t find on Silk Road.
Silk Road is gone now, but that doesn’t mean the deep web is dead. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth.
When you go to Google and you type in a phrase, do you realize you are only searching 3% of the web? It’s hard to get a solid number, but the deep web is estimated to be almost 500 times bigger than the searchable web.
It was hard to get my head around the deep web at first. See, in my job, my goal is to make my clients’ pages more visible. It’s to get them to the first page of the Google search results.
Deep web users have the exact opposite goal in mind. The last thing that they want to see is their page anywhere near Google. Half the reason Silk Road got busted was because they got too fucking big. Silk Road and deep web became synonymous. Silk Road was the number 1 ranking site among sites that didn’t want to be ranked. They were the kings of the invisible internet.
But just because the king is dead doesn’t mean the land is gone. The invisible web is still there, it is still flourishing, and you can still find it.
You can’t just go to Google and type in ‘deep web’ or something ridiculous like that. Any sites that do come up are not deep web sites. They’re scam sites. Deep web sites don’t allow bots to search their pages, so deep web sites won’t show up on Google. You might find a listing of links, but I can promise you that when you click on one, you’ll get an error page instead. The deep web can’t be accessed through standard search engines.
The main passage to the deep web is through something called The Onion Router, otherwise known as Tor.
Onions? What the hell do onions have to do with anything, you might be asking.
You probably are all very familiar with .com, .org, .edu and other extensions like that. In the deep web, most things are found through .onion extensions.
You can only get to these extensions though the Tor browser (or other deep web browsers that sometimes suck). Some people say it’s a bitch to configure, but I didn’t find it that difficult. It might have changed since I set it up though. Also, I’m pretty good as this stuff.
Most pages you find on Tor will be listed though another pages links, because again, these pages are not trying to be search engine friendly. Helpful deep net users will compile pages of links for users to browse. The Hidden Wiki is also a decent place to search, though many pages listed on the Hidden Wiki are actually scam websites. When it doubt, try to get to it through a standard Firefox browser. If you can get there on an unencrypted server, it’s not deep web.
Some pages are commercial, for buying illicit black market items. Everything from fake passports to escorts and high powered weapons will be found on the commercial sites. Payment is through something called ‘Bitcoin’, which is possibly the most anonymous way to spend money on the internet.
There are also groups simply for people who don’t want their internet usage monitored by anyone. I think we can all agree that I’m not just being a crazy Libertarian when I say that the government watches most of us a bit more than we’d like to think they do. Political groups, including groups that embrace civil disobedience and anarchy, can be found in the deep web.
Personally, I prefer Tor because I value my privacy. When I’m not using Tor, I’m using a VPN. What I do on my internet is my fucking business, US Government. If you’re going to spy on me, you’re going to have to put in the effort.
Also, I find that the technical people I need to reach to do research spend more time in Tor forums than they do in standard forums. Why? Because you have to be smart to get to those forums. Trolls, sexbots and idiots need not apply.
A few words of warning before you go checking out the deep web
Understand the acronyms and terms. Do not go clicking wildly, or you are going to wind up with an eyeful of something you can’t unsee. Here are some things to avoid.
- CP and Chan – Both acronyms for child pornography. Yes, Chan is usually anime, but this is the deep web we’re dealing with. On the deep web, chan is child pornography…generally extremely young child pornography. Sick fucking bastards.
- GM – Genital mutilation. Yes, there are some people that get off on this shit.
- Adult – Rarely are you going to find any kind of normal ‘vanilla’ porn when searching the deep web. Most porn sites want to be on Google. So, when you find a porn site that is actually trying to hide itself, what do you think is on it? If your answer is ‘nothing I want to see’, you are right. Keep your adult searches to the regular web unless you’re interested in getting scarred for life.
- Pedo – Seriously, guess…This is a sick, sad fucking world we live in.
- Hard Core – The deep web’s ‘hard core’ is a whole assload of different from the regular web’s ‘hard core’. Generally, ‘hard core’ means ‘snuff’ when you’re surfing the onion.
- Mechanic – The ‘mechanics’ on the deep web don’t deal with cars, unless you’re looking to have someone’s brake lines cut. Some of these dudes are scammers, some are the real McCoy. Either way, they’re all fucking nuts. Best avoided.
Exercise extreme caution. Tor is filled with hackers. Disable your webcam and microphone. Do not download anything from anyone and do not give out your personal email address. Even something as innocuous as a logo can hold a tracking cookie. The deep web is where you find the most advanced hackers out there. These are not the guys and girls that send you chain mail. These are the people that can find one tiny hole in your system and exploit it. Think of it this way. The regular internet is like walking through a park on a sunny Sunday morning in Greenwich, Connecticut. The deep web is like wandering down a darkened alleyway in Detroit at 2 am on New Years. Vigilance and suspicion are your friends.
Nothing is ever absolutely private. Once you have Tor rolling, you need to disable cookies, java, flash and cache. If you have no idea how to do this, you do not belong on the deep web in the first place. Understand that no matter what you do, if someone wants to find you bad enough, they will find you. Just ask Ross William Ulbricht.
Tor is slow and tedious to use. This is because it is the best place to search the 97% of the internet you all can’t see every day. It provides constant encryption as well, and bounces off a series of volunteered computers, which slows it down more. As a result, you might get booted occasionally. Simply stated, be cool. If you don’t need to be on Tor, don’t use it. Use a VPN instead. My personal favorite is ‘Go Trusted’, but ‘Hide My Ass’ is good too. .
If you’re smart, Tor can be a fun place to explore. Not every site on Tor is nefarious. In fact, many sites are just for people who want to avoid the idiots in the world. If you can believe it, the forums with drug users and hired assassins are actually quite a bit more civil than any book forum you’d find on Amazon.
Also, it’s not illegal to use Tor. It’s not illegal to browse the sites you find on Tor…with the exception of CP and Chan sites. If you’re on those pages, I hope you get busted. I hope you get busted hard and get a 400 pound cell mate, with anger issues, a PCP problem and a 10 inch penis.
Yeah, I personally put drug dealers and assassins on a more acceptable scale than kiddie porn searchers. Fucking sue me.
I would encourage most people to check out the deep web at least once. Not doing so is like going to a fancy hotel in Tijuana and never leaving your hotel room. It’s there. Enjoy it. Experience it.
But stay the hell off the kiddie porn sites. That’s just gross.