The “dark Web” isn’t quite so dark anymore thanks to a new search engine that aims to make finding “hidden” websites on the Tor network, such as the recently shut down Silk Road, as easy as looking up a recipe on Google.
The aptly named TorSearch crawls websites that appear on the Tor network, which cannot be accessed through the regular Internet. Launched by developer Chris MacNaughton, TorSearch has so far indexed 130,000 Tor resources, reports VentureBeat. And users can submit sites for MacNaughton to add to TorSearch’s ranks.
“I want to be the Google of Tor,” MacNaughton told VentureBeat.
To use Tor, which anonymizes Internet traffic by rerouting users activities through various other volunteer-run computers called “nodes,” you must first download the Tor Browser Bundle, which allows you to connect to the Tor network. Once loaded, you can browse the regular Internet anonymously. You can also access sites with .onion domains that are ordinarily not indexed by mainstream search engines like Google.
One of the things that keeps Tor’s “hidden services” websites hidden is that they are often difficult to find through normal avenues. It was beneath this veil that online drug supermarket Silk Road, which was recently seized by the FBI, operated for two and half years. And it’s where the illegal drug sites that have risen in prominence since Silk Road’s fall currently exist.
In fact, TorSearch itself is a “hidden services” site. But anyone can access and use it by visiting the site’s companion .onion.to domain. These type of domains are not anonymous like .onion sites are, but they do allow “hidden services” sites to make themselves accessible to the broader Web.
A quick test of the site shows that it does indeed surface a good amount of content – especially porn and drugs, which find a natural home on the Tor network. However, a good number of our searches brought up sites like TorLinks and Hidden Wiki, which themselves are often used to find “hidden services” sites.
Whatever MacNaughton’s intentions, it’s hard not to think that TorSearch will only make it easier for the FBI and other law enforcement agencies to find the kinds of nefarious activities that have long found a relative safe haven in Tor.
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