The Dark Web - When Did This Happen?
There's been so much hype about "the dark web" lately, I felt like I have missed something. Turns out, this buzzword was created for a concept that has been around for decades.
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I might be showing my age here, but all this talk about "the dark web" lately has made me a bit confused. It seems like every security-related commercial I hear (on TV or radio) seems to mention "the dark web" as part of the content for the advertisement. Here is the commerical I have been seeing a lot of, lately:
In order to avoid total embarrassment, I opted to visit Wikipedia to learn the definition of this latest buzzword.
Here is how Wikipedia defines the dark web:
"The dark web is the World Wide Web content that exists on darknets, overlay networks which use the Internet but require specific software, configurations or authorization to access. The dark web forms a small part of the deep web, the part of the Web not indexed by search engines, although sometimes the term 'deep web' is mistakenly used to refer specifically to the dark web." - Wikipedia
Okay, wait ... there's a "deep web" too? Did I become a modern-day Rip Van Winkle at some point - sleeping through all of these latest terms?
Following the same process, I checked Wikipedia for a definition of the deep web:
"The deep web, invisible web, or hidden web are parts of the World Wide Web whose contents are not indexed by standard search engines for any reason. The content is hidden behind HTML forms. The opposite term to the deep web is the surface web, which is accessible to anyone using the Internet. The deep web includes many very common uses such as web mail and online banking but it also includes services that users must pay for, and which is protected by a paywall, such as video on demand, some online magazines and newspapers, and many more. Computer scientist Michael K. Bergman is credited with coining the term deep web in 2001 as a search indexing term." - Wikipedia
Deep web, invisible web, hidden web ... that's a lot of terms in front of the word "web."
My Favorite "Twister" Memory
This might be a tad off-base, but every time I hear "the dark web" (and it really seems like a lot lately), my mind races back to the 1996 summer blockbuster "Twister" starring Bill Paxton and Helen Hunt. For those who do not remember (or never saw the film that grossed nearly $500 million), the cast was made up of a group of tornado chasers who had an obsession that exceeded their financial means. As a result, they were running with equipment that was make-shift at best - hoping to gain results from researching twisters along the famous "tornado alley" within the United States.
The comical part of this movie is that there had to be a bad guy (or bad team) to make the story interesting. In Twister's case, another team of researchers (the bad guys) also wanted to research tornados but had an ample budget to make things easier for them.
In typical blockbuster movie fashion, the director opted to outfit the "evil tornado chasers" with as much black stuff as possible. Black vehicles, with a lot of black equipment and maybe even black jumpsuits to make it clear, "these guys are evil." In the end, the "evil" team didn't win (at least I don't think they won). Honestly, they were just doing their job and trying to meet the goals set by the corporation funding them (Disclaimer - I might be missing some plot points here, as I haven't seen the movie since 1996).
Why I think of Twister when I hear "the dark web" ... and I hear it a lot (as previously noted) ... is because the concepts behind the dark web (deep web, invisible web, hidden web, or put-anything-you-want-before-the-word web) have been around since the inception of the web itself. To me, this is no different than how I use my VPN client to connect directly to systems and networks for my daily job. I have a secure channel to my client's network, which uses specific software, configuration, and authorization to access. My connection is part of the web which is not indexed because it is secured from outside access.
This is not something new, but something that has been in place for decades now - once corporations realized the web was a valid tool for business. Gone are the days of connecting to the private network via a modem and waiting forever for data to flow between the remote device and the corporate network.
To me, the use of the terms dark/deep/invisible/hidden web are buzzwords geared to gather hype and introduce some level of scare to the public. I am not sure if their efforts are working, but it does appear there is a substantial marketing budget behind the campaigns.
What I honestly don't understand is how these companies can offer a free scan to see if your information is on the dark web. I mean, if companies can access and check "the dark web" to see if your information has been compromised, how can they not shut it down at the source? Wouldn't this be like the local police offering a service to check to see if your home is on a list to be burglarized, but only do something about it if you call/pay them?
Private networks have existed on the web for as long as the web has been mainstream. It is one of the major benefits of the worldwide network. It should come as no surprise that individuals opt to use this ability for good and bad intentions. To label it in a manner to introduce fear or anxiety really doesn't seem like the right answer ... but that is probably a decision that was made as part of a marketing effort ... which might just be working.
Have a really great day!
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