The term “Dark Net” is loosely defined, but most frequently refers to an area of the Internet only accessible by using an encryption tool called The Onion Router (Tor). Tor is a tool aimed at those desiring privacy online, although it frequently attracts those with criminal intentions. An innovative feature of Tor is the ability to host websites anonymously and with a degree of impunity — designed to be used by those in repressive regimes who wish to host whistle-blowing or political content.

The study described in this paper collected data on the Tor Dark Net over a period of six months to analyze the type and popularity of the content. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of sites were criminally oriented, with drug marketplaces featuring prominently. Notably, however, it was found that sites hosting child abuse imagery were the most frequently requested.

Part of Series

The Global Commission on Internet Governance was established in January 2014 to articulate and advance a strategic vision for the future of Internet governance. The two-year project conducts and supports independent research on Internet-related dimensions of global public policy, culminating in an official commission report that will articulate concrete policy recommendations for the future of Internet governance.
  • Gareth Owen is a senior lecturer in the School of Computing at the University of Portsmouth. He holds a Ph.D. in computer science and has expertise in distributed computing systems, digital forensics and privacy-enhancing technologies. Before joining the university, he lectured at the universities of Kent and Greenwich in the United Kingdom.

  • Nick Savage is the head of the School of Computing at the University of Portsmouth. He was previously a principal lecturer in the School of Engineering at Portsmouth, where he taught networking and security.