What is the Dark Web?
You already know about websites like Wikipedia, Google, Amazon, YouTube, and Facebook. But they’re only a small part of the internet. Beyond those popular websites are sites hidden away and not readily available to the general public. That space is where the Dark Web and the Deep Web exist.
The Dark Web, or Darknet, is a general term for a collection of websites on an encrypted network with hidden IP addresses – all of which gives users strong anonymity protection. Because they are not indexed by traditional search engines, you can only access them with special anonymity browsers, such asI I2P, Freenet, and the most common, The Onion Router (TOR) bundle.
The Dark Web is Not the Same as the Deep Web
The Deep Web is all the sites on the web that can’t be reached with a search engine. Although this includes sites on the Dark Web, it also includes sites that serve more mundane functions, such as business intranets, webmail platforms, databases, online banking platforms, and services that usually require a password or other means of authentication.
These are found and accessed directly with a URL or IP address, and are hidden behind firewalls, paywalls and HTML forms. Because all these other pages are included in the Deep Web, the Deep Web is actually far more vast than the regular internet (also known as the Clear Web).
The easiest way to browse web pages is to download and install the Tor browser bundle. Tor URLs end in the suffix.onion. Unlike.com websites, the URLs are usually complex and difficult to remember, and websites will often change their URLs in order to evade detection and DDoS attacks.
When you’re on the Dark Web, ISPs – and by extension, the government – might not be able to view your activity, but they will know you are on the Tor Network. This alone is enough to raise eyebrows in some countries.
The Dark Web Isn’t Just for Criminals
The anonymity provided by the Dark Web is certainly attractive to those looking to buy or sell illegal goods such as drugs, weapons, or stolen data.
But there are also legitimate reasons for using the Dark Web. In past years it has gained popularity as a safe haven for whistleblowers, activists, journalists, and others who need to share sensitive information, but can’t do so out in the open for fear of political persecution or retribution by their government or other powerful actors.
Police and intelligence agencies also use it to monitor terror groups and keep tabs on cybercriminals. Additionally, corporate IT departments frequently crawl the Dark Web in search of stolen data and compromised accounts, and individuals may use it to look for signs of identity theft.
In many circles, the Dark Web has become synonymous with internet freedom, especially as nation states continue to clamp down on it. It now plays host to a number of media organizations involved in investigative journalism, such as ProPublica and the Intercept. Most notably, WikiLeaks – the website that publishes classified official materials – also has a home on the Dark Web. Even Facebook maintains a presence there in order to make itself accessible in countries where it is censored by the government.
Positive Things to Do on the Dark Web
1. Exchange information in countries with internet censorship
Tons of countries, like China, Qatar, Cuba, Turkey, and Russia censor online content that promotes political dissidence or what they consider obscene (e.g. content relating to homosexuality). The Dark Web offers a forum where none of these restrictions exist.
2. Expose abuses of power
The Dark Web allows journalists and political activists to report on stories that could get them in trouble with dictatorial regimes or governments bent on infringing on an individual’s right to privacy.
3. Buy restricted goods
Although we at vpnMentor don’t condone buying illegal goods, we can’t help but acknowledge certain instances in which such purchases could be justifiable.
For instance, some painkillers and sleep aids that are common in Europe are illegal in many Middle Eastern and Asian countries. Plus, with an estimated 15.5% of Americans without health insurance (and many more with high deductible plans) many people have no access to the prescription medications they need.
That said, the lack of oversight on the Dark Web makes this extremely risky – though some in dire straits are likely to take that risk.
4. Buy legal goods anonymously
Life is a rich tapestry, and we don’t have to list the type of stuff people buy that they might want to keep private. Buying on Dark Web marketplaces can add a level of privacy to your shopping experience that you just won’t find on Amazon.
And for the particularly security conscious, the Dark Web can simply provide an extra layer of protection when buying anti-surveillance tools.
It should be noted, however, that while the products themselves may be legal, there are definitely instances in which sellers hawk merchandise that’s been illegally obtained or stolen.
5. Simply use the internet anonymously
You might be surprised to find out the Dark Web hosts a lot of websites similar to those you would find on the clear web. These include blogs, gaming sites, social media networks, and super-encrypted email platforms.
Stay Informed, Educated… Stay Safe.