The surface Web, which people use routinely, consists of data that search engines can find and then offer up in response to queries. This is only the tip of the iceberg — a traditional search engine sees about 0.03 percent of the information that is available (Bergman 2001). Much of the rest is submerged in what is called the deep Web. Also known as the “Undernet,” “invisible Web” and the “hidden Web,” it consists of data that cannot be located with a simple Google search.
In order to formulate comprehensive strategies and policies for governing the Internet, it is important to consider insights on its farthest reaches — the deep Web and, more importantly, the dark Web. This paper endeavors to provide a broader understanding of the dark Web and its impact on our lives. The dark Web is the portion of the deep Web that has been intentionally hidden and is inaccessible through standard Web browsers. Dark Web sites serve as a platform for Internet users for whom anonymity is essential, since they not only provide protection from unauthorized users but also usually include encryption to prevent monitoring.
With the Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers’ contract with the United States Department of Commerce due to expire in 2015, the international debate on Internet governance has been re-ignited. However, much of the debate has been over aspects of privacy and security on the visible Web and there has not been much consideration of the governance of the “deep Web” and the “dark Web.”
The term deep Web is used to denote a class of content on the Internet that, for various technical reasons, is not indexed by search engines. The dark Web is a part of the deep Web that has been intentionally hidden and is inaccessible through standard Web browsers. A relatively known source for content that resides on the dark Web is found in the Tor network. Tor and other similar networks enable users to traverse the Web in near-complete anonymity by encrypting data packets and sending them through several network nodes, called onion routers.
Like any technology, from pencils to cell phones, anonymity can be used for both good and bad. Users who fear economic or political retribution for their actions turn to the dark Web for protection. But there are also those who take advantage of this online anonymity to use the dark Web for illegal activities such as controlled substance trading, illegal financial transactions, identity theft and so on.
Considering that the dark Web differs from the visible Web, it is important to develop tools that can effectively monitor it. Limited monitoring can be achieved today by mapping the hidden services directory, customer data monitoring, social site monitoring, hidden service monitoring and semantic analysis. The deep Web has the potential to host an increasingly high number of malicious services and activities. The global multi-stakeholder community needs to consider its impact while discussing the future of Internet governance.