I am so happy to welcome back author Neil Plakcy!
The Dark Web
Many years ago, at the dawn of the Internet, I picked up a book called Teach Yourself HTML in Seven Days, and I proceeded to do just that. Since then, I’ve been fascinated with internet programming – and hacking. The protagonist of my golden retriever mysteries is a somewhat reformed hacker, and it’s great fun for me to figure out how he can use those skills in his amateur sleuthing.
In my Angus Green thrillers, I’ve taken a different approach. Angus is a newly minted FBI Special Agent with a degree in accounting—a background common to many agents today, who need significant financial skills to track today’s sophisticated criminals. But Angus doesn’t have much experience with the dark side of the Internet, so I’m able to use his actions to teach my readers a bit about online villains.
An analogy that’s often used compares the Internet to an iceberg. Only about ten percent of all networked material is accessible through search engines and web crawlers. Techies call that the surface web.
Material like your bank account information, your email folders, corporate intranets and so on—anything that you need a password to access – is called the deep web. These don’t show up in a search engine, and you wouldn’t want them to. But there’s another part of that submerged iceberg, called the dark web. And that’s where criminals lurk, selling your information, trafficking in drugs, sharing pornographic videos.
When you make any request online – to visit a website or send an email– the internet uses a series of routers to complete your request. ISPs or government agencies can track the stops you make along the way, tracing you back to the unique web address assigned to the computer you’re using. But if you want to cover your tracks and dive into the dark web, all you need is an internet connection and a piece of software called the Tor Hidden Service Protocol.
Using Tor, your surfing requests stay within the network so you maintain anonymity. You don’t know where the server is you’re accessing, and they don’t know where you are. It’s perfect for political activists in repressive regimes, and for people who want to share and/or sell illegal materials – like drugs or kiddie porn.
The dark web is getting more visible these days, as investigators break into sites like Silk Road, an online black market and the first modern darknet market, best known as a platform for selling illegal drugs. Recently a France-based administrator of the site made the mistake of coming to the United States to participate in a beard-growing contest, and he was promptly arrested.
Angus is gradually building his arsenal of online skills. He’ll never be a true techie—the FBI has plenty of those. But I see him as an eager young Special Agent determined to bring a measure of justice to the world, and willing to learn everything he needs to know to carry out that mission.
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NOBODY RIDES FOR FREE by Neil S. Plakcy
The sharp and suspenseful new sequel to The Next One Will Kill You, perfect for fans of Joseph Hansen, Richard Stevenson, Randy Wayne White, and James W. Hall.
With less than a year of experience and only one big case behind him, FBI Special Agent Angus Green has joined the rarefied group of agents who have been wounded in the line of duty. Assigned to a desk job while he recovers, Angus wonders if he’s chosen the right career. He’s been following his late father’s dream for a life of adventure and travel―and instead encountered danger, pain, and heartbreak.
But when Angus discovers that gay teens are being sexually abused by a pornographer in the same neighborhood where he lives, he shoves aside his lingering doubts about his job and accepts his new assignment. The case takes him from Fort Lauderdale’s seamy underbelly to boisterous beachfront bars where big-fish Russian émigrés launder illegal cash. Angus is back in full effect, but with great power comes great responsibility, and he’ll soon find his stake in saving these trafficked teens is more personal than he could have anticipated. Every case leaves a lasting scar―some are just more difficult to see. In the end, Angus will learn the truth of a saying he learned as a boy―there is a price to pay for every decision we make. Nobody rides for free.