Silk Road: When I read an article like this, I realized that I am really naive.
Yesterday’s bust of the man the FBI said is the operator of Silk Road, a secretive online marketplace for illegal drugs and various sketchy services, has brought some new attention on the “Dark Web.”
So what the heck is the Dark Web, a.k.a. the Deep Web, a.k.a. the Hidden Web, and to the extent that you would want to, how does one access it?
Basically it’s a network of websites that are hosted on a network reachable only by people who use Tor, which stands for The Onion Router. You can read about it here. Tor’s origins lie in a project at the U.S. Naval Academy, and the point then was research into new ways of protecting government communications from the encroachments of hackers and spies.
Here’s how I understand how it works: When using a Tor-enabled browser, the traffic between your computer and the server that hosts the website you’re visiting travels through a randomized network of nodes that comprise the Tor network. No single link in the traffic chain can be used to link back to you, making it a pretty good tool for staying anonymous (when used properly).
In time, the research project moved to the open-source community, and now software that enables use of the Tor network is freely available to anyone: Bad guys selling drugs and guns, political activists trying to obfuscate their communications from a repressive government, or police doing surveillance work.