Dear FBI agents, my name is Carole Cadwalladr and in February this year I was asked to investigate the so-called dark net for a feature in a newspaper. I downloaded Tor on to my computer, the anonymous browser developed by the U.S. Navy, Googled "Silk Road drugs" and then cut and pasted this link silkroadvb5piz3r.onion into the address field.

And bingo! There it was: Silk Road, the site, which until the FBI closed it down on Oct. 3 and arrested a 29-year-old American in San Francisco, was the Web's most notorious marketplace.

The "dark net" or the "deep web," the hidden part of the Internet invisible to Google, might sound like a murky, inaccessible underworld but the reality is that it's right there, a click away, at the end of your mouse. It took me about 10 minutes of Googling and downloading to find and access the site on that February morning, and yet arriving at the home page of Silk Road was like stumbling into a parallel universe, a universe where eBay had been taken over by international drug cartels and Amazon offers a choice of books, DVDS and hallucinogens.