You probably would have heard about the term dark web or deep web while browsing. And might be curious as to what it actually is and if it is safe at all. The World Wide Web, which is an integral part of our lives as of now, is just like an iceberg. The part of the iceberg above the water, which is well visible to us, is the normal web, that we access and use everyday. Everything on this “normal web” can be indexed by search engines like Google, Yahoo and Bing. However, this part of the web is just about 4% of the entire world wide web in existence.
The rest of the web (the part of the iceberg under the water) remains inaccessible by normal search engines. Thus this part is hidden from normal view. This is what is called the deep web. The deep web is simply the content that cannot be accessed by search engines. And the dark web is a subset of it. The deep web also includes databases, web services and other content that is not indexed by a conventional search engine.
So, What is the Dark Web actually?
The Dark Web is essentially a group of websites which exist on a special type of network. These networks require a special kind of authorization/tools to access. They include The Onion Router(TOR), I2P, and Freenet, which are operated by organizations that promote anonymous and censorship-resistant communication. One can connect to both the normal web and the dark web using these networks. These networks provide anonymous access to the internet. What they are doing is adding an extra layer (onion layer) over the network layer of communication to make the transfer secure. The sites which work only on the onion layer have encrypted URL’s and cannot be accessed without the onion layer. Hence, they are a part of the dark web, which does not get indexed at all.
How does the Dark Web work?
Each website on the Dark Web defines a starting point (or node). Once connected to any of these networks, the user starts from this node. The connection passes through a labyrinth of computers, and then finally connects to the website. All these connections are encrypted, and these networks are almost impossible to block.
By anonymous connection, it means that the servers of these networks will not store any information which can reveal your identity. Also, your ISP will not be able to monitor your browsing, as it will only be able to know that you are connected to that network. But what the ISP’s will not know is the content that you are browsing by connecting to that network. It leaves no trace of your online activity! (Or so is claimed, there have been breaches in the past, but you are not going to commit federal crimes on the dark web that need to be traced back to you. If that is your target, this introductory post is not something you would be reading anyway).
Now coming back to Dark Web, here are a few things that can be found on it:
- Whistle-blowing websites: The Dark Web is a safe and secure way for whistle-blowers to expose corruption in their governments. Websites like Facebook, Twitter and Wikileaks have a “Dark Web version” which allows such anonymous access.
- Discussion Forums: Numerous forums regarding politics, assassinations, conspiracy theories, experiments on humans and classified information on extra terrestrial life, which are usually not talked about in public can be found here.
- Hackers: The dark web is a haven for hackers and warez groups. Hacktivists like Anonymous utilize the Dark Web to carry out their activities.
- Huge amount of illegal things: Apart from these things, the Dark Web is infamous for its underground markets which sell every illegal thing imaginable. You can get a hit man or a hacker for hire (yes you read that right), order drugs like marijuana (there was a complete market dedicated to it which was shut down by FBI under Operation Onymous), buy arms, ammunition, counterfeit currency and passports, and stolen credit card information.
The payment for all these things does not involve your traditional cash, but a new type of cyber currency called bitcoins. There is a very high chance of one getting duped, and this is not something you should try in our opinion. Explore it for educational/learning purposes and you should be fine. Anything beyond that is you risking it on your own.
And here is a video describing how Tor works and a bit more:
And if you are wondering if Tor is safe or not, you might want to read this quora post on it. So this was it about the Dark Web. We would love to hear your explorations in the deep/dark web and anything interesting you have to say in the comments.