A Baltimore-based company, Terbium Labs, has shone some light on the sort of content one can find on the so-called dark web, or at least that you can access through Tor. The study found, contrary to popular belief that the majority of the dark web, accessible through Tor is mostly legal… or offline! With extremism making up just a minuscule 0.2% of the content looked at.
Here’s what Terbium Labs did:
“We reviewed a sample of 400 URLs from a single day in our automated crawler’s history. URLs (as opposed to domains) were used as the independent unit within the sample. The sample was selected at random from the population of URLs known to our unrivaled big-data infrastructure that crawls the dark web continuously. For each of these URLs, a team of analysts classified the page content into one of 15 predefined categories.”
Terbium Lab’s figures covered only 12 of the 15 categories, as researchers found no content in the remaining three categories, which were: Falsified Documents & Counterfeits, Weapons, and Weapons of Mass Destruction.
As for the other categories they represented, the following percentages of the sites found:
- Legal – 47.7%
- Site Down – 17.7%
- Drugs – 12.3%
- Explicit – 6.8%
- Multiple Categories (Illicit) – 6.5%
- Pharmaceuticals – 3.2%
- Other Illicit Activity – 1.5%
- Hacking & Exploits – 1.3%
- Fraud – 1.3%
- Exploitation – 1.0%
- Downloadable – 0.5%
- Extremism – 0.2%
While the absence of weapons and low figure of exploitation and extremist sites may re-assure Tor fans, Terbium Labs, quickly bring the situation back down to Earth, with regards to weapons the researchers wrote:
“The image of major arms dealers selling crates of Kalashnikovs is one of the most persistent dark web myths. Unlike ISIS planning forums, weapons aren’t quite a myth: they do exist in isolated pockets.”
Regarding exploitation, which refers to any content that is pornographic, violent, or otherwise abusive or illegal involving children, Terbium Labs said it passed on information to the proper authorities and in its research had browser images turned off. Regarding this content online, Terbium Labs said:
“Unfortunately, exploitation exists in measurable quantities; it is present more than extremism, more than weapons, even almost equal to fraud. This is a legitimate and real concern on the dark web, and is not as infrequent as you might hope it to be.”
While this report does prove that seedy websites exist on the dark web, they are in fact a minority, contradictory to what many popular news reports would have consumers believe.