The Dark Web: A Modern Day Speakeasy

Some of the most storied establishments in New York’s nightlife scene, including The Cotton Club on 142nd Street and The Stork Club on 58th Street, got their start by playing host to highly illegal activities.

Speakeasies, the shadowy prohibition-era bars where people gathered in secret to drink harsh liquors and socialize, were a side effect of the Volstead Act, which prohibited the production, sale, and transport of alcohol in most U.S. states from 1919 to 1933. Often operated by the mob and entrenched in criminal operations, these hidden watering holes had a dark side, and they were responsible for building the fortunes of several notorious gangsters.

For instance, beneath the surface of the internet most people know, which comprises about 10% of networks, lies a vast network of peer-to-peer connections known as the Deep Web. Allowing for much improved privacy protection, the Deep Web has its legitimate advocates, including those who oppose the tracking and surveillance of the mainstream web. However, the Deep Web is also home to the Dark Web, a collection of sites engaged in illegal transactions and activities, protected by the Deep Web’s unindexed anonymity.

Virtually all types of illegal items – from drugs to stolen credit cards – are accessible on the Dark Web, where sites can be visited using a special anonymizing network like The Onion Router (Tor). Much like the Volstead act, Tor was created to combat a perceived social injustice. Specifically, its intended purpose is to avoid government observation and censorship, and allow users to browse without being tracked. The side effect is that it enables access to a hidden world of illegal vices.

Ultimately, the Dark Web raises some complicated questions related not only to the ethics of anonymous browsers, but also about legislation in general. For instance, are outdated laws partially fueling web-enabled criminal empires? What would happen if these laws were updated? Would some of these underground businesses turn to other elicit activities? Or would they make their way to the public web, bringing along their novel history of nefarious dealings, not unlike the speakeasies of yesterday?

Contact us to learn more about how Gotham Security protects organizations from what’s lurking on the deep, dark web.