Dark Web refers to any Internet content that cannot be indexed by popular search engines. The network that is used to host and display the DarkWeb is known as Dark Net. It is the segment of Deep Web and its content is intentionally hidden. This post will discuss What is the Dark Web and dark Net, how it works, is it illegal, how to safely access Dark Web links and websites and its applications.
What is the Dark Web and Dark Net
Dark Net simply refers to Dark Side of Internet. Internet contains 500 times more content than what Google returns in search results. The Internet that is hidden from view is Dark Net. Dark Web links and its content refer to web pages, blocked sites (like those that ask you to answer a CAPTCHA to access), limited-access networks and unlinked sites/ private sites i.e. those sites which require login credentials. Dark Net is the segment of Deep Web and its content is intentionally hidden.
Fig. 1 – Introduction to Dark Web & Dark Net
Dark Net may be used for legitimate purposes as well as to conceal criminal or otherwise malicious activities. Users can access Dark Webs by using special software known as TOR (The Onion Router) or I2P (Invisible Internet Project). The U.S. Naval Research Laboratory released the first TOR which was referred as “The Onion Routing Project” in the year 2002. This was used as tool for anonymously communicating online.
While certain tools aim to anonymize the content and activity on Dark Net, security experts and researchers are developing means to unfold the hidden services and activities of the individuals. Most widely used cryptocurrency on the Dark Net is Bitcoin (BTC). Other digital currencies are also used such as Litecoin, Ether, Dash etc. Litecoin is gaining popularity to send/receive payments online securely.
Fig. 2 – DarkWeb Poll Results of Crypto Currency
Classification of World Wide Web
To understand DarkWeb and Dark net, it is important to know the layers of World Wide Web. “WWW” is classified into three categories and they are:
- Surface Web (Open Web)
- Deep Web
- Dark Web
What is Surface Web (Open Web)
Any content or webpages that can be indexed by a search engine like Google/Bing (i.e., linked content) is Open Web or Surface Web. The content can be accessed by the Domain Name System (DNS). Websites displayed by search engines like Facebook, Wikipedia etc. is a part of Open Web.
- Open Web is 4% of www content.
- The content is easily accessed.
- It is under Government surveillance.
What is Deep Web
Any content that’s not linked (i.e., cannot be indexed by search engines) is Deep Web.
- Deep Web is 96% of www content.
- It includes harmless content like travel site, search results and library catalogs.
- Also includes the “Dark Web Links.”
The Dark Web – A Subset of Deep Web
Dark is the subset of Deep Web and is referred to as Anonymous web i.e., the portion of the Deep Web that is not accessible via standard browsers is Dark Web.
- Clandestine/ Intentionally hidden from view.
- Provides anonymity (both for publishers and users).
- Difficult to navigate/monitor.
Fig. 3 – Categories of Web
How to Safely Access The Dark Web & Dark Net
Below are the steps of how to access Dark Web and Dark Net safely and anonymously using Tor. Tor is a network through which the user’s internet connection becomes anonymous.
- Install Tor Browser
- Use VPN
- Navigating Dark Net
Install Tor Browser
Through the Tor Browser, you can easily access Tor. Tor Browser can be downloaded and installed for free. To hide your Tor Browser download, use a VPN and your existing browser’s private/incognito mode.
Fig. 4 – Tor Browser in Private/ Incognito Mode
As Tor node IP’s are public, internet providers can detect when Tor is being used. Though websites cannot identify an individual and ISP’s are not capable of decrypting web traffic, yet can see that Tor is being used. This can draw unwanted attention. When using a VPN for the Dark Web links, your ISP (Internet Service Provider) will not be able to see that you are connected to a Tor node. Hence VPN is recommended for added security.
Navigate Dark Net & Access the Dark Web Links
DarkWeb links and websites are labelled as “Tor hidden services”. They can be distinguished from normal websites by their URL’s which use “.onion” suffix. Instead of “.org” or “.com”, DarkWeb links can be distinguished by the domain, “.onion “.
Fig. 5 – Dark Net websites with ‘.onion’ Suffix
How does the Dark Web Work
Dark Webs combine encryption in the Application Layer with anonymizing software (TOR) to help users by making communication untraceable. TOR helps in the encryption of Web Traffic and bounces the communications to different nodes all over the world. These nodes removes single layer of encryption before the data is passed on to next hop in the network.
This process hides the Tor User and the IP address of data host’s by routing them through many Network Relays. Thus, tracing of user is difficult as each router knows its previous and successor node. The TOR Exit Node or Exit Router decrypts the message but it is unaware of its origin.
Fig. 6 – Representation of TOR Network
Is the Dark Web Illegal?
The Dark Web , as a whole, is not illegal*. Its all about how and why you are using it. It provides access to number of websites, which though may be objected, violate no laws. You may browse social media sites, forums and blogging websites that entails issues such as politics, technology and sports. However, you have to be very cautious there.
Use your common sense and just understand the fact that if something is illegal outside as per law, it will be illegal there as well. All those activities occurring on the dark webs that supports or any how linked to illegal actions/ operations are Illegal. If If you use it to purchase illegal drugs or firearms, that’s illegal. If you are participating in forums that are spreading hate, issuing threats or inciting crime, then it is illegal.
Using Tor to access and browse the dark webs is not illegal*. Surfing it might not be illegal, however, visiting certain sites or making certain purchases, through them is illegal.
*Disclaimer: The subject of the legality/ illegality of the dark webs in certain areas of the world is an ongoing debate. The above content is not intended to be comprehensive and should not be relied upon as legal advice.
Applications of the Dark Web
The applications include:
- Dark Web is like black market used for illegal Activities like Drug Dealing, child pornography, arms dealing and other criminal activities.
- Terrorists use anonymous Web to share information and coordinate with other terrorists.
- Terrorists also use it for illegal purchase of weapons and explosives.
- It is used by activists and revolutionaries to organize themselves without fear of their position to Government they oppose.
- Used for fake Passports and fake ID’s business.
- Users Counterfeit money.
- Used to steal accounts like PayPal etc.
Advantages of the Dark Web
The advantages include:
- Avoids censorship: People within closed groups or societies facing extreme censorship can utilize the DarkWeb to communicate with outsiders.
- Creative Anonymity and secrecy: Even people from open societies use DarkNet.
- Useful for journalists and whistle blowers to maintain secrecy in communication while transferring and leaking information.
Disadvantages of the Dark Web
The disadvantages are:
- Encourages criminal activities.
- Private data like photos and videos can be stolen.
How to Stay Safe on the Dark Web and Dark Net
- Don’t trust anyone.
- Cover your webcam.
- Don’t download.
- Check that your VPN is working.
- Use proxies.
The Dark Web Links | Dark Web Websites Worth Visiting
Below is a list of websites that are on Dark Net and are worth visiting. It is advised to be always cautious while visiting Dark Web Links. Do not click on any links you do not trust and do not fill in any personal information on the dark webs.
1. Hidden Wiki
The Hidden Wiki is a dark net Wikipedia where you can find links to different websites on the DarkWeb.
Link to the Hidden Wiki: http://zqktlwiuavvvqqt4ybvgvi7tyo4hjl5xgfuvpdf6otjiycgwqbym2qad.onion/wiki/index.php/Main_Page
This is a mirror website of the real Facebook. This mirror version of the social network is a way around government censorship.
Link to the Facebook mirror: https://www.facebookcorewwwi.onion/
Candle is a search engine for just the dark web and functions basically just like Google, however, it is nowhere near as useful.
Link to Candle: http://gjobqjj7wyczbqie.onion/
Secure Drop is a place where whistleblowers and journalists can meet. The dark web is the only way that whistleblowers have a chance to share their information without being certain that they will be tracked.
Link to Secure Drop: http://secrdrop5wyphb5x.onion/
ProtonMail is a Swiss encrypted email service and is among the very best of the e-mail clients out there. They use end-to-end encryption and don’t keep any logs.
Link to ProtonMail: https://protonirockerxow.onion/
6. Comic Book Library
Here you can download thousands of comic books from popular ones to the classics.
Link to the Comic Book Library: http://r6rfy5zlifbsiiym.onion/
Technology is inherently neutral. The Dark Web and Dark Net will continue to fascinate everyone who uses the internet.
- Dark Web contains huge amount of knowledge that could help us evolve when connected to other bits of information.
- Its darker side, of course will always be lurking too, just as it always does in human nature.
- It just provides an easy way to connect with other people of similar interests, and to facilitate further interaction.