Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Below the Surface Web.

During the ABA Techshow I had occasion to attend an educational session entitled “The Deep Dark Web”. You may have heard of the dark web in the news when in October of 2013 the FBI shut down the notorious online illicit market: The Silk Road. The Silk Road was part of the dark web, a term which some have used synonymous with the term deep web. This usage however is incorrect, since the dark web and the deep web are distinguishable.

To understand the distinction between the deep and dark webs I will first explain the surface web. The surface web is the topmost level of the web. It consists of the websites with which you are most familiar: Google, Yahoo, Bing, etc. The surface web is estimated to contain about 4% of the information available on the internet. The main distinction between the surface web and the deep web is that the surface web is indexed by the major search engines such as Google while the rest of the internet is not.

Neither the deep web nor the dark web are indexed. The distinction between the deep web and the dark web is anonymity. While other darknets exist, the most commonly identified darknet is accessed using the Tor browser. Tor, which stands for The Onion Router, is a web browser based on the same source code as Firefox.Unlike Firefox the Tor browser sends communications through a distributed anonymous network and thus can be used to hide the identity of both the person viewing and the operator of a website. It is important to note that while the anonymity of the Tor network (coupled with unregulated currencies such as Bitcoin) made the illegal online marketplaces possible, there are also legitimate uses for such anonymous networks such as secure communications for non-governmental organizations, to circumvent censorship, or to allow journalists to communicate with whistle-blowers or dissidents.

So how do you find information in the deep and dark webs?

Since the deep web includes the information connected to the internet but not indexed by the popular search engines it may prove difficult to find unless you know what you are looking for. Some helpful websites include the WWW Virtual Library which has been continually cataloging the web through the collaboration of volunteer experts since 1991. Deep Web Technologies has a page of several search tools which index various U.S. Government databases. Additionally, many government websites provide access to enormous amounts of data such as data.gov and gao.gov. Learning how to navigate the deep web can be a valuable tool for both legal academics and attorneys preparing appeals. For instance a search of Westlaw’s briefs database reveals that “GAO Report” came up in 323 U.S. Supreme Court case briefs. A similar search of law reviews and journals reveals that “data.gov” came up 67 times.

The dark web is more difficult to access but may be helpful to attorneys seeking certain information. For instance, prosecutors might work with police to set traps for would be criminals. Family law attorneys might also use the dark web to find residual evidence after the Ashley Madison website was hacked in 2015 and public websites were forced to take the leaked information down. Accessing the dark web starts with downloading the Tor Browser, but if you choose to do so: use caution. Simply accessing the dark web could draw the attention of the FBI or other less desirable attention should one of the natural denizens of the dark web decide you don't belong.


  1. I have heard of the deep web before but your blog definitely brought information to my attention that I was not aware of. The concept of trading with Bit Coins was interesting to me, however, how do these criminals ever make any money if they cannot allocate the cash from these coins? I disagree with your idea that the federal government should not regulate the deep web. The majority of activity on the deep web is criminal activity. I believe the government should step up their regulations for the deep web in order to decrease the amount of crime happening in the United States. It would be hard to monitor internet access from other people in the world but the United States needs to at least be monitoring this activity. By regulating and enforcing the laws on the deep web, the government might be able to confiscate the millions of dollars that is being traded from the hands of criminals.
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  2. Very interesting article. There will always be seedy goings on so why should the net be any different. Dark Web vpn for torrenting