The dark web is a part of the internet that can’t be accessed by most people using normal internet browsers. Websites on this section of the internet are not visible to the general public and can only be accessed with special software tools.
The dark web also has been a haven for criminals, hackers, and other people looking to commit fraudulent acts. There is no way of knowing what’s happening in this hidden corner of cyberspace unless you know how to find it.
What are the dark web, deep web, and surface web?
The dark web refers to the part of the internet that can’t be accessed by most people. Websites on this section of the internet are not visible to the general public and can only be accessed with special software tools (TOR browser).
The deep web consists of all pages on the internet that search engines cannot find, which means they won’t show up in search results. That can be anything from local files on a user’s computer to private sites that require special logins.
The surface web is what people access every day (also known as the clear web). This is the part of the internet you go to when you open traditional browsers and type in a website name. It’s also known as “indexable content.”
What is the dark web?
There are many things that fall under this classification, and some of them may surprise you.
The dark web is a part of the internet that is proxy-anonymous and requires special software to access it. It contains all kinds of websites dedicated to any kind of topic – everything from assassination services, private databases and medical records to pornography.
The best way for regular people to describe the dark web is that it’s a more secure version of the internet we all know and use.
The technology behind the dark web allows users to operate anonymously and without fear of being monitored, making these areas prime locations for hackers and other criminals.
The best way to search for something on the dark web is by using .onion links which can easily be shared without being traced back to the user.
What is the dark web used for?
The most common use of dark web websites by far is for buying and selling prohibited goods like illegal drugs, guns, counterfeit money, stolen data, and credit cards, and conduct illegal activity.
This part of the internet also contains tons of material that can get you into trouble if it falls into the wrong hands. These include illegal content such as child pornography, illegal pornography, drug trafficking, and contraband of all kinds.
Credit card information, various narcotics, firearms, counterfeit money, stolen subscription credentials, hacked Netflix accounts, and software to break into other people’s computers are all available for purchase.
Purchase login credentials for a $50,000 Bank of America account, real social security number, fake $20 notes, prepaid debit cards, or a “lifetime” Netflix premium account. Hackers might be hired to attack systems on your behalf (this is an illegal activity so don’t do it :).
Wanting to buy something that may be banned in your country? Chances are it can be found on the dark web.
However, it’s also used for whistleblowing reasons to reveal classified information about governments – but this comes with a huge risk for whistleblowers.
The dark web has been also used by journalists and political dissidents to share information anonymously with each other or to talk about news stories that might put them in danger if they were identified as the source.
There are also many legitimate purposes that the dark web is used for, including keeping communication lines open between spies in different countries, sharing censored information with people living in oppressive regimes to evade government censorship, and allowing people that believe that free speech is threatened to communicate.
When was the dark web created?
The phrase “dark web” was coined in 2009, but it is unclear when the dark web itself initially appeared.
The dark web, or hidden internet, has been around for decades. It originally grew out of the idea that some information should be able to be shared anonymously and without fear of censorship.
One of the first websites to create this alternative part of the internet was called The Freenet Project. The Freenet Project first came online in 1999 and was created by a group of students at the University of Edinburgh.
The students wanted to be able to share information anonymously with each other, so they developed Freenet as a way to do it.
How is the dark web accessed?
You can’t access the dark web through Google Chrome or the Yahoo search engine.
In order to gain access, you need to use a special dark web browser called TOR or The Onion Router. This is a free software project that was originally developed by the U.S. Navy and has been in operation since the 1990s.
TOR network is a network of computers around the world that you connect to your computer. When you sign up for it, TOR connects your computer to other computers to make it more difficult for organizations and governments to find out who you are. The idea behind the TOR network is that it becomes very difficult for anyone that wants to spy on what you do online.
This software allows for anonymity when browsing the internet by bouncing your internet connection off of other people’s computers all around the world. In addition, it also hides your internet history.
Is the dark web illegal?
While the dark web is a haven for illegal activities, it’s not inherently illegal. Anything can be placed on the dark web as long as you pay for hosting or if it’s put up anonymously without going through a company.
The majority of what makes something appear illegal to non-technical people is encryption and TOR – both are required in order to access most of the content on the dark web.
However, there are many good uses for this anonymous network.
Journalists can communicate with whistleblowers and publish information that otherwise would never see the light of day.
The U.S. government itself uses TOR for anonymous communication between spies and informants in foreign countries. This allows for a private conversation with no fear of getting caught by the spy’s contact, allowing them to report potentially life-saving information.
It is also rumored that terrorist organizations use this technology to communicate with one another.
Where is the dark web located?
The servers that make up the dark web are all around the world, and it’s impossible for any organization – even governments – to control or block them because of how TOR works.
While many of these servers are legal, there is a large number of them that are in countries where governments do not apply the same rigorous standards of law that Western countries have adopted.
However, this also means that if someone is inside of a country with more relaxed laws, they may be able to use servers located in other countries to access content on the dark web without worrying about being intercepted.
Is it dangerous to visit the dark web?
Yes, it is dangerous to visit the dark web.
You should only access the dark web if you have a good reason for doing so and know what you are doing. If you abuse this anonymous technology by using it for criminal activity, then digital forensics teams will be able to find out who you are.
For example, if you create a Bitcoin account on the dark web, law enforcement officers can find out who is behind that account because Bitcoin records every transaction in an open ledger which means that your identity could be compromised by government agencies.
This is what happened to Ross Ulbricht (also known as Dread Pirate Roberts) who created the online black market Silk Road that operated anonymously for years.
Silk Road was shut down by law enforcement officials eventually. However, new dark web marketplaces have sprung up to take its place. AlphaBay, Dream Market, Hansa, and Wall Street Market are just a few of the sites that fall under this category.
Although the majority of these dark web markets have been shut down or removed, new ones continue to emerge.
Do I need to be tech-savvy to visit the dark web?
Yes, you will need to be very tech-savvy if you want to visit the dark web safely and anonymously.
If not, it is very easy for someone with malicious intentions to steal your personal information or install malware on your computer that can steal your password or credit card information.
How do I get started on the dark web?
In order to access .onion sites, you need to download TorBrowser from their website at https://www.torproject.org/. Once installed, it will work just like a normal browser and can be used anonymously in conjunction with the TOR network.
However, it’s important to note that TorBrowser doesn’t encrypt all of your internet traffic as most modern browsers do. This means that someone could still intercept your destination before you get there which is why using this browser alone isn’t advised.
Another thing worth noting is that almost all of the websites on the dark web will use a .onion domain name which is not accessible through normal browsers.
To visit an onion site, you will need to enter the onion address into a TorBrowser.
What is the deep web?
There are two parts to the internet: the surface web and the deep web. The surface web is everything that you can access through search engines, including online newspapers, blogs, etc.
The deep web content includes all of those things plus databases and other websites that aren’t indexed by search engines. This would include almost any website on a private server or even a website that requires registration to access.
How is the deep web accessed?
Because a lot of websites aren’t included in search engines, it can be hard to find them unless you know where they are on the deep web.
There are lots of resources online that can tell you how to access these sites or give you links to some of them. You can also access the deep web on sites like I2P. I2P or the Invisible Internet Project is a network of computers that all work to encrypt data packets before they are sent out.
To use I2P, you need to download their software, which allows you to access the I2P address of websites – which often look like this: http://3g2upl4pq6kufc4m.onion/ – instead of the more common URL http://example.com.
On the Tor network, onion sites and services live, and their URLs end in .onion. Download and install the free Tor browser to gain access to the dark web (alternatively, you can use it to browse the surface and deep webs.). It is totally legal, and the US government contributes significantly to the Tor Project’s funding.
Risks associated with the dark web
If you’re considering using the dark web for basic privacy needs, you may still have concerns about its safety. Regrettably, it may be a dangerous place to be. The following are some of the more prevalent risks you may encounter while browsing:
With numerous Tor-based websites being seized by law enforcement agencies worldwide, there is a distinct risk of becoming a government target for just browsing a dark website.
In the past, police have used illegal drug marketplaces such as the Silk Road to conduct surveillance. By infiltrating and analyzing activities with proprietary software, law enforcement officers have been able to ascertain the names of patrons and spectators alike. Even if you never purchase anything, you may be monitored and incriminated for future activities.
Intrusions can expose you to surveillance for additional types of activities. In some nations, circumventing government limitations in order to investigate new political views is a punishable offense. China employs what is referred to as the “Great Firewall” to restrict access to popular websites for just this reason. Being a visitor to this content carries the danger of being placed on a watchlist or being immediately targeted for a prison sentence.
Certain advertised services, such as professional “hitmen,” may just be frauds designed to defraud unsuspecting customers.
According to reports, the dark web offers a variety of criminal services, ranging from paid assassinations to prostitution and arms trafficking.
A few of these are well-known, well-established threats that circulate on this fragment of the internet.
Others, on the other hand, may be exploiting the dark web’s reputation to defraud people for enormous sums of money.
Additionally, some dark web users may attempt phishing scams in order to steal your identity or personal information for the purpose of extortion.
Malicious software, or malware, is very much alive and well on the dark web. It is frequently supplied in some portals to provide threat actors with the tools necessary to conduct cyberattacks. However, much as it does on the rest of the web, it persists across the dark web, infecting unwary people.
The dark web does not adhere to as many of the social contracts that website operators maintain on the rest of the web to protect users. As a result, users may be regularly exposed to certain types of malware, such as:
- Malware that operates in a botnet
- Malicious software used for phishing
If you choose to explore any sites on the dark web, you risk being identified out and targeted for hacks and other crimes. The majority of malware infections are detectable by endpoint security applications.
If your computer or network connection is compromised, the dangers of internet browsing can extend into the unplugged world. While anonymity is a strong tool when used in conjunction with Tor and the dark web’s structure, it is not flawless. Any internet activity, if dug deeply enough, can leave breadcrumbs leading to your identity.
How to navigate securely through the dark web
If you have a valid or viable reason to browse the dark web, you’ll want to take precautions to ensure your safety if you do so.
- All daily operations should be performed using a separate non-admin local user account. By default, the native account on the majority of machines will have full administrator privileges. The majority of malware must leverage the power of this to function. As such, you can stop or reduce the advancement of exploitation by restricting the privileges granted to the account in use.
- Always keep access to your Tor-enabled device restricted. Protect your children or other family members from coming into contact with anything they should never see. If you’re curious, visit the Deep Web, but keep children away from it.
- Distancing your online persona from your real life is critical. Your login, email address, “actual name,” password, and possibly even your credit card should never be used in any other context. If required, create brand-new disposable accounts and identifiers for yourself. Prior to making any purchases, obtain prepaid, untraceable debit cards. Use nothing that could be used to identify you – online or offline.
- Avoid downloading files from the dark web explicitly. Fear of malware infection is substantially higher on the dark web, which is a chaotic place. In the event that you do choose to download, use real-time file scanning from an antivirus program to assist you in verifying any incoming files.
- Maintain an active surveillance program for identity and money theft. Numerous internet security services now provide identity protection as an added layer of protection. Utilize these tools if they are made available to you.
- Disable ActiveX and Java in any network settings that are available. These frameworks have a well-deserved reputation for being analyzed and exploited by malicious actors. Given that you are traveling through a network that is heavily populated with these hazards, you will wish to avoid this risk.
- Have faith in your intuition. To avoid getting scammed, you’ll want to safeguard yourself online through cautious activity. Not everyone is what they appear to be. To stay safe, you must exercise caution in who you speak with and where you go. If anything does not feel right, you should always take steps to remove yourself from the situation.
There are a variety of other precautions you should take to steer clear of trouble on the dark web. For example, make sure that your activities are directly relevant to your interests. The Dark Web is not a place for pranks or jokes – it’s an extremely hazardous environment.
If you do find yourself in need, there are all sorts of new darknet markets launching practically on a daily basis. This means that it is nearly impossible to maintain an up-to-date list of scams and potential problems at the click of a button.
The dark web tools
Here are some tools to help you navigate the dark web safely:
- Tails (The Amnesic Incognito Live System) is a Linux-based security-focused operating system. It’s designed to leave no trace on your computer or online activities. You can run it straight from an internet browser, CD, USB stick, or SD card.
- The Tor Browser Bundle is a program that allows you to utilize the web in complete anonymity. It routes your traffic through the world’s largest network of volunteer relays, which masks both your browser and physical location information.
- Freenet is an anonymous peer-to-peer networking platform. It enables you to safeguard yourself from data mining and surveillance.
- TorChat is a peer-to-peer instant messenger that uses Tor to encrypt all of your communications. You can connect directly with friends or chat anonymously in public group chats.
- BitMessage is an anonymous, encrypted, peer-to-peer “email” service. All messages are locked down and unreadable until the recipient decrypts them using a private key. It also allows you to send encrypted messages back and forth with your contacts.
The truth is: the internet has done more good for humanity than bad. But, like any tool, it must be respected and wielded responsibly.
The dark web is dangerous due to what lives there; not because of how it works. The trick is to respect the beasts you encounter and remain cautious of your surroundings, and you should be fine.