What's really on the dark web?

When you scour the internet using a search engine like Google, you're just scratching the surface when it comes to what's out there.

Justin Yapp, a Phd student in cyber security at Embry-Riddle said the other 95 percent is what's called the "deep web.”

"Only about 5 percent of the internet is actually indexed by search engines like Google, Yahoo, Bing," said Yapp.

Think of it as an iceberg; most of it is underwater, hidden behind passwords or search boxes not reachable with search engines.

The "dark web" is a smaller portion of the "deep web" that is intentionally hidden from the average user. It requires special software that encrypts data and keeps the searches anonymous.

The most popular is called Tor, or “the onion router.”

The name comes from the way the data is wrapped in layers of encryption, like layers of an onion.

That information is then relayed through a series of computers all over the world. At each point, one layer of encryption is peeled off, revealing just enough to send it to the next point until it reaches it's final destination.

That makes it nearly impossible for anyone, including law enforcement, to find out where the information or search started.

Even internet service providers don't know it's going through their systems.

"There's a lot of illegal activity that goes on," said Yapp. 
It's notorious for drugs, weapons, child porn and for selling stolen personal information.

Using a computer with special software, Yapp accessed some tamer content the dark web, including a dark web version of a search engine called, “duck, duck go.”

on the took us into the dark web...showing us some of the tamer content... A dark web version of search engine "duck duck go."

There are hidden webmail accounts, places to buy Bitcoin and even something called Hidden Wiki. Anything one might find on the surface web, there is likely a dark web version.

But it's not all seedy activity.

"There's a lot of countries that block social media,” Yapp said.

Journalists working to spread content in countries such as China, where information on the web is restricted, use the dark web. There’s version of the news website Propublica people in those countries could access using the dark web without being discovered by their government.

Still, with the anonymity there are a lot of scams and very little recourse for victims. That's one reason yapp believes there's little reason for the average person to do anything on the dark web.

"I would not encourage anybody to go and try it unless they know what they're doing,” said Yapp.

Jeff Deal

Jeff Deal, WFTV.com

I joined the Eyewitness News team as a reporter in 2006.

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