The Dark Web may be smaller, pervier than previously thought

Last week, two hackers unleashed an automated scanning tool on the the internet's deepest layers, known as the Dark Web. This digital underworld is accessible only through the Tor Network and trafficked largely by hackers and criminals looking to avoid the gaze of law enforcement. Hackers Alejandro Caceres and Amanda Towler set their website vulnerability scanning tool, PunkSPIDER, loose on the Dark Web in an effort to improve the semi-anonymizing network's security but made a surprising discovery: the Dark Web may not be nearly as large as experts estimate.

When PunkSPIDER made its rounds last week, the security tool only found about 7,100 .onion sites in total. Heck it's entire scan wrapped up in just three hours. "You might notice that's not a lot of sites. If there's one thing we've learned from Memex it's that the number of Hidden Services [Tor network sites] up at any time has been greatly overestimated," Caceres explained to Forbes. Out of that number, only about 2,100 responded within a reasonable time. The pair found that, for the most part, these sites are pretty secure. Just 50 had actionable vulnerabilities, though that's likely due to their largely single-page, static HTML designs.

Of course, being the Dark Web, the pair did find a number of sites offering illegal content including, "a weird subset of child porn," Caceres said. "After looking through them there is at least one that we'd like to share with law enforcement before releasing it publicly. This is the one case where we actually don't want the website administrator to fix their site before someone in law enforcement hacks it – trust me, it's a really bad one."

{Image Credit: Moment Editorial/Getty Images]