What Is the Dark Web and What Will You Find Out There?

What Is the Dark Web and What Will You Find Out There?

The dark web got its reputation as being the bad place of the internet. But is this completely true?

For most users, the whole internet is represented by the links search engines return for search queries. If you can't find in on Google, it doesn't exist, right?

Well, in reality, what Google is able to display is just a tiny bit of the internet and the digital world goes way beyond the websites you're accustomed to. That part of the internet that's not available through traditional means like Google is called the Dark Web. As its name suggests, that part is not the brightest side of the internet and it's packed with shady businesses and not so user-friendly websites.

So should you ever pass the realms of the Dark Web if things are not so shiny?

In this post, we're going to present you the ins and outs of the Dark Web - what it is, what you'll find on the Dark Web, and how you can access it. You'll see that using the Dark Web can also have some perks.

But enough introduction for now, let's get take the journey so you can make up your own mind about it.


What is the Dark web?

Definition of the dark web

The dark web represents that part of the internet (the websites) that it's not indexed by search engines. The websites on the dark web reside on an encrypted network and are not accessible using traditional web browsers.

The websites on the dark web are created using the hidden service Tor. The websites run entirely on Tor, so users won't know who runs and manages the websites and only those using Tor have access to them. These websites appear as .onion URLs (opposed to URLs such as .com). Similarly, users accessing the dark web don't leave traces behind their searches and their location, identity, and IP address can't be tracked down due to the multiple layers of encryption.

When researching the depths of the internet, you'll come across two terms that are often used interchangeably - Dark web and Deep web. And they are not the same.

Dark web vs Deep web

While the dark web represents the content on the internet that's not indexed by search engine and it's only accessible by using specific software, the deep web refers to the hidden web.

The content on the deep web is also not indexed by search engines and it's hidden behind HTTP forms. But it is accessible from any browser through direct links to the users that are eligible and they might require authentication details. Such content examples are medical records, banking records, private forums, services that users must pay for (newspapers, video on demand).

To get a clearer idea:

  • The surface web - are the websites you can find through search engines.
  • The deep web - are the websites not indexed by search engines but available from any browser for users that are eligible to access it.
  • The dark web - are the websites not indexed by search engines and only accessible through specific software.

How do you access the Dark Web?

Tor

The most common and easiest way to access the dark web is through Tor (The Onion Router). Tor is a browser that allows users to browse the web anonymously. It works on a network of computers sustained by volunteers all around the world. The user who conducts a search query on Tor becomes anonymous by encrypting their connection in multiple layers and sending the traffic through at least three of the computers in the network (that are randomly selected).

With Tor, you can access both the dark web and the surface web (websites that are indexed) anonymous. In fact, most of those using the Tor browser don't do it to access the dark web but rather to access the surface web (websites such as YouTube) in an anonymous manner to ensure their online privacy.


What happens on the Dark web?

The dark web got its reputation as being the digital place where crime thrives. And this is not wrong. The dark web is used by criminals to sell illegal merchandise such as drugs, guns, and counterfeit money. It's used by cybercriminals to sell user private information and credit card details. And it's also used by a variety of other criminals such as child predators.

Hackers' world

Because of the anonymity you get on the dark web, there's no wonder why hackers choose this place to be their "digital home". Some time ago, there were around 20 hacker forums on the dark web, now there are over 200 of them, some of which shelter as much as half a million users. Some of the hacker communities are open, but most of them are hidden and only accessible through recommendations or by paying an entry fee. These communities are mostly used for finding hackers you can hire for their skills.

Commerce

The dark web became something like an Amazon for fraudlend activities. Users can easily buy drugs, guns, and other illegal merchandise by adding them to cart, choosing payments methods and selecting delivery methods. Whatever illegal item you're thinking about, you can find to buy it on the dark web. The raising of crypto-currency made transactions even simpler. By paying in crypto-currencies such as bitcoin, the transaction can be made without those involved knowing each others' identity.

As you might think, the place is scattered with scammers. And buying something on the dark web, illegal or not, is not the safest thing to do. Because of the anonymity involved, there's no guarantee you'll be actually receiving the package and, if this happens, there's not much you can do about it. Although many markets on the dark web have a feedback and complaints system, reviews are fairly easy to manipulate and the shop can close at any time without warning.

Selling personal data

Besides physical items, the dark web also serves as a market for digital merchandise. People sell credit card numbers, hacked Netflix accounts, stolen subscription credentials, prepaid debit cards, and so on. Cybercriminals that conduct attacks to steal users' private information, use the dark web to sell it and make a profit. If you ever had your sensitive data hacked through a direct attack or through a data breach, there's a great chance your personal information is out to be bought on the dark web.

Freedom of speech

Like in all of the world, there's also a bright side to the dark one. There are many people living under repressive regimes and the dark web provides a way for them to win their online freedom and to speak up the truth without placing their lives at risk. Some governments attempt to censor the internet to control what we get to see online so the dark web is a great mean to escape censorship. Journalists use the dark web to protect themselves when they write stories of abuses from around the world.

As you can see, the dark web has many dark activities going on, but not all those using it are there for illegal purposes. The decision regarding which part you're on it's up to you.

Using the dark web doesn't make you a criminal, the actions you take while you're on there decide if you're a criminal or not. And no, going on the dark web is not illegal.

And you should keep in mind that not everything that happens on the dark web is illegal either. The dark web has a lot of information to provide that you might not find on the surface web. Such as advanced tips for privacy for example or knowledge about crypto-currencies. You can find out news from whistleblowers on dedicated sites. Even Facebook launched a version on the dark web which has an extra layer of security compared to the traditional version. The number of legitimate businesses that are starting to build their presence on the dark web is increasing because they know users have become more aware of their privacy and security.


Why use the dark web?

As you've seen above, people living under repressive regimes rely on the dark web to get internet freedom. But even if you're not one of those people, you might still find it useful.

Privacy, privacy, privacy

The Tor is designed to provide anonimity to its users. Because the layered encryption system, users' are anonymous and can't be tracked. The encryption technology routes users' internet traffic through various remote servers until it reaches the destination and the host websites have no idea where the connection came from. They can't see the user's geolocation or IP address. The servers are chosen randomly so it is almost impossible for the path to be reproduced. Because of the level of encryption, websites are not able to track users and their IP address, and users are also not able to get this information about the host website.

The alternative to the dark web for privacy

Let's talk alternatives. Maybe you want to be anonymous online so you can keep your privacy intact but don't fancy the idea of using the dark web or the Tor browser. If so, the good news is you always have the option to use a VPN.

The VPN client encrypts the data that’s sent from your computer before it reaches its destination. This means your IP won’t be visible to your ISP (Internet Provider), the website you’re accessing, or anyone else that could be trying to track your moves. The only thing your ISP can see is that you’re connected to a VPN, but it has no idea on the activity you’re doing online.

There are various VPN providers out there, including free options. I won’t advise you to use a free VPN service as it's not reliable, it’s slow, and you don’t know what information they log about you.

After you decide on the VPN service you want, you have to install the VPN client that the service provides on their website. In the installed app, you’ll provide the login information which will be either the username and password you chose when you signed up for the service or some special credentials, depending on the service.

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