Is the Deep Web as formidable as it sounds?
An estimated three-quarters of New Zealanders who use drugs often are buying and sell drugs on social media or encrypted websites.
Drug trade on the so-called "deep web", it seems, has taken off.
What is the deep web and is it all just illegal drugs and weaponry?
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What is the deep web?
Simply put, the deep web is everything that cannot be accessed on the surface web.
The internet is like an iceberg with 10 per cent floating above water. This is the 'surface web' like Google and Facebook. The other 90 per cent of the web is the deep web and it requires special servers to access it.
The deep web is unsearchable through a search engine - you can't Google your way onto the deep web. This is because deep web pages are 'unindexed': there are no links in them that are accessible to sites like Google.
Deep web pages need a specific downloaded search engine such as The Onion Router (TOR) to access them.
How do you connect to the deep web?
The most common server used to access the deep web is TOR.
Thousands of TOR users volunteer to have their computer server used as a 'relay'.
When searching on TOR, data is bundled into something that works a bit like the layers of an onion. There are layers of data that need to be stripped away before getting to the information in the middle.
This onion is sent through multiple relays. The first relay can only strip away one layer of the 'onion' so it knows the computer it came from and the next relay to send the 'onion', but does not know the final destination.
The next relay strips away another layer and again, only knows where the onion last came from (the previous relay) and what relay to send the 'onion' of information to next. So it is extremely difficult (although not impossible) for others to know what information a person seeks.
Is it illegal to be on the deep web?
No. Chief technology officer at NetSafe Sean Lyons explains: "The line is clear, the technology is not illegal. Being anonymous or escaping your identity, there is nothing illegal about that."
However, an association with illegal material is generally what goes on on the dark web, Lyons says.
"Most people's first knowledge of the dark web is the Silk Road. Being on it wasn't illegal but purchasing drugs … that's illegal."
Lyons says people are on the deep web for many reasons, including buying credit card numbers or getting involved in the slave trade.
"Saying 'I didn't know' is no defence. If you import it and bring it in then you've broken the law. Ignorance is no defence when you take active steps to participate in that level of networking."
Buying goods and services on the deep web is not illegal if the trade is legal in the country it is bought in, he says.
It becomes illegal when those goods are imported into a country where the substance is not legal.
Will I always be anonymous on the deep web?
TOR does not automatically ensure anonymity. Users who leave their email addresses visible or run other applications while running TOR can be tracked.
Firefox is required for TOR to run but all other Flash plugins such as QuickTime, should be disabled because these are access points to your internet activity that can be tracked.
Is there a difference between the deep web and the dark web?
Yes, the deep web can be accessed by internet novices by simply downloading TOR. The dark web is much more technical and requires specialist skills and tools to access, making it a haven for cyber-criminals.
Is it just used for illegal means?
According to DarkWeb Stats the majority of deep web users go there to buy and sell drugs.
Dark Web Stats analysed the top 15 vendors across all marketplaces on the deep web in 2015. They found cannabis, pharmaceuticals and MDMA made up the top three items sold and purchased on the deep web.
But parts of the deep web are the same as the surface web, only with the advantage of anonymity. Such as blogs, news sites, discussion forums, religious sites, and radio stations.