From drugs to hitmen for hire: what exactly is the ‘dark web’?

Stock image.
Stock image.

AS our reporters have found out from recent court stories, the ‘dark web’ is being used by Perth criminals to buy and sell drugs.

But what exactly is it?

Journalist Eileen Ormsby, whose book The Darkest Web was the result of five years investigative reporting into the dark web, described it in a Fairfax interview as “a parallel internet of sites that can’t be accessed through the world wide web”.

Wikipedia describes the dark web as content that exists on the internet but requires “specific software, configurations or authorisation to access”.

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The dark web is a small part of the ‘deep web’ – a plethora of internet content which is not archived by search engines like Google.

It was initially designed by the US military to protect sensitive information, but became part of the public consciousness through online drug retailer Silk Road.

Instead it uses ‘anonymity networks’, the most popular of which is Tor.

Tor, and other anonymity networks, keep a user’s identity and internet activity from being monitored.

Dark web addresses won’t be written in plain English – like CrimeStoppers.com.au.

Instead, they’ll be 16 random letters or numbers ending in .onion instead of .com or .org.

Transactions on the dark web are carried out using anonymous ‘cryptocurrencies’, such as Bitcoin.

But while the initial intention of these networks may have been pure, the anonymity they afford has made them a tool for those dealing in criminal activity.

Community News has reported two examples of drugs being sold on the dark web here in Perth.

The purchase and sale of drugs is the most popular dark web activity.

More frighteningly, it is also used to buy and sell child pornography.

Even murder is for sale on the dark web – hitmen advertise their services on various networks, although Ms Ormsby found out their reliability is up for question when she organised a hit on her ex-partner, who was already dead.

“They just wanted money – I never thought there was any chance they were going to carry out any beatings or murders,” she told Hack.

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