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Online Investigations: The Deep and Dark Web

  • August 07, 2017
  • by Stephanie Irvine
  • Articles

Ever want to know the answer to a question? Technology has pervaded our society so much that a common response would be to go online to look. After all, only 13% of Americans don’t use the internet, meaning that an overwhelming majority of people are online. And as our personal lives become enmeshed with our social ones online, more personal information is readily available, much to the benefit of private investigators. While a lot of this information is available superficially with a quick Google search, even more information is available in the deep, dark web.

How Deep and Dark is the Web?

An important distinguishing aspect of the web is that not all of the web is deep and dark, it can be either (or both). The surface web, which is how you accessed this site, is fairly benign and contains a lot of information. The surface web consists of all information anyone can find online through search engines, like Google.

Dig a little deeper, and you will find data, documents, and information that couldn’t easily be found by a simple search. This is the deep web, that includes database results. When you look up a case using the county circuit clerk database or run a search with the DMV, you are accessing the deep web. The deep web is often accessed through login credentials and can only be seen with a direct link, permission, or a subscription. Its pages are not indexed for search engine bots to read.

The dark web, however, requires a special browser, like Tor, to access an untraceable, deeper (sometimes darker) level of the web. The Tor network is completely anonymous and offers an entire world of information that is otherwise inaccessible with a standard internet connection and browser.

Although this network is home to many illicit and illegal sites, the aspect of anonymity became more attractive to everyday people, especially since Edward Snowden came out with information about surveillance conducted by the NSA. As such, it has grown to incorporate more than just the illegal drug trade and other illicit behaviors.

Online Investigations - Deep and Dark web

Online Investigations

Private investigators can use the internet to their advantage to find answers to their investigations. Social media investigations is a growing field of investigations, but as the majority of the information online is beyond social media platforms, it is essential for investigators to understand the depth of the web.

Depending on the type of investigation, private investigators should look into researching further online. Databases on the deep web are essential tools for investigators wanting more information on all types of investigations and need more information and leads. These tools and subscriptions should be in every private investigator’s toolbox to start investigations and gather essential information not available to the public. The dark web can be useful for missing or kidnapped persons and criminal activity investigations. Investigations can benefit from searching on the dark web, to discover information where people are posting in the cloak of anonymity to perform illicit activities. Searching through the dark web can help locate and identify missing persons or illegal property on the black market.

The internet is a vast resource that has its benefits and downfalls, and it is necessary for a private investigator to understand both. Knowing complexities of the online world can help private investigators tackle numerous types of investigations.

More Access, Better Service

As more information is uploaded online each day, the role of a private investigator has undoubtedly changed to include research online. While traditional PI tactics still persevere in the new climate, online research can help private investigators better apply those methods. Instead of surveilling to find a work address or private information, this information can be found online, thus limiting actual time on foot. This can equate to a safer and more targeted surveillance mission.

However, as private investigators, it’s important to get the right information. With all the information available online, it is easy to get sucked down the rabbit hole and find you have wasted hours tracking what you thought might be a good lead. Hunches can be great, but there are more efficient ways to get the information you need online.

Different professional associations can provide you with training if you feel that your skills need to get up to speed with the current trends in internet research while helping you develop specific skills to uncovering information online. Additionally, using trusted databases that are known for providing up-to-date information can also help keep your searches efficient and targeted.

Is Your Investigation Digital?

Cyber-investigation is so prolific in our current society that there are entire investigation units of police departments and even the United States government that are dedicated to investigating online. It would stand to reason that a significant portion of private investigators have gone online to start their research as well. We’d love to explore this topic with you further. Do you use the deep or dark web? Is there more information you’d like to know?


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