The dark web is a hidden group of websites accessible only through specialized browsers. They are used to preserve the anonymity and privacy of actions taken on the Internet, both legitimate and not-so-legitimate. While some users use these browsers to visit Internet resources blocked by the government, others engage in activities that cannot in any way be called legal.
The Internet is a space of millions of web pages, databases and servers running nonstop. The so-called visible Internet (the public, or open Internet) includes websites that are indexed by search engines like Google and Yahoo - but that's just the tip of the iceberg.
Underneath it is the invisible Internet, which, in turn, is divided into several areas. And if you're going to explore one of them, it's worth finding out how they differ from each other.
The open, or publicly accessible, Internet is the visible layer on the surface of the World Wide Web. If we think of the entire Internet as an iceberg, the top part of it, which is above the water, would be the open Internet. Statistically, websites and the data they contain make up less than 5% of all Internet resources.
Here are all the popular publicly accessible websites that can be visited through regular browsers such as Google Chrome, Internet Explorer and Firefox. These websites are most commonly .com and .org domains and are easily found through popular search engines.
The detection of these sites is possible because of the ability of search engines to index Internet resources through visible links. This process involves search engine robots scanning websites.
The deep web stretches beneath the public space of the Web and includes about 90% of all websites. This part of the iceberg is underwater and far exceeds the size of the public Internet. In fact, this hidden part is so large that it is impossible to know exactly how many web pages or sites are active on it at any given time.
Going back to our analogy, large search engines can be compared to fishing boats that can only catch Web sites close to the surface. Everything else, from scholarly journals to closed databases to illegal content, is beyond the reach of our anglers. The deep Internet also includes the so-called Darkweb.
In the news, the terms "deep web" and "dark web" are often used interchangeably, but the vast majority of deep Internet resources are perfectly legal and safe. Let's take a look at its largest components.
Databases: both publicly available and closed from users sets of files not linked to other areas of the Internet. They can only be searched within the database itself.
Intranets: internal networks of large enterprises, government and educational institutions, used for internal communication of their users and for managing the assets of the respective organizations in a segregated environment.
Wondering how you can get into the deep web? Chances are, you already encounter it on a daily basis. The deep internet brings together all web pages that are not indexed by search engines. Such sites may be hidden by passwords or other security mechanisms, or they may simply send a signal to search engines not to index them. And in the absence of visible links, finding such pages becomes even more difficult.
Content hidden from prying eyes of the deep Internet is mostly not forbidden and is not dangerous. A wide variety of resources can be found on the deep web, from draft publications for various blogs and unapproved website layouts to pages designed for financial transactions. In addition, such content poses no threat to your computer or security in general. Many of these pages are hidden from public view to protect user privacy and the information listed below.
Nevertheless, there are already a number of dangers in diving further into the deep web. Some users are using the power of the deep Internet to bypass local restrictions and gain access to TV and movie watching services not available in certain regions. In the darker waters of the deep Internet it is possible to download pirated copies of music files or movies not yet released to cinemas.
And even more dangerous resources and more room for illegal activity can be found in the deepest waters. This part of the deep Internet, or Dark Web, contains websites that require the installation of an anonymous Tor browser to access.
For ordinary users, the issue of protecting their activity on the deep web is more relevant than on the dark web: they can stumble upon dangerous resources completely by accident, since many areas of the deep web can be accessed through ordinary browsers. As a result, users can turn away from familiar online paths and end up on a pirate site, a forum for political radicals or a page with inappropriately violent content.
The Dark Web includes websites that are not indexed and are only accessible through specialized browsers. This part of the deep Internet is even smaller than the public Web, which, as we recall, is a small fraction of the World Wide Web. In our analogy of the ocean and the iceberg, the Dark Web would be the lowest point of the underwater part of the iceberg.
The Dark Web, however, is very well hidden, so few people will be able to take advantage of its resources or even stumble upon them. In other words, the deep Internet encompasses all the resources hidden beneath the visible part of the Web and includes the Dark Web, and can be accessed through special software.
It is possible to highlight a number of characteristics of the Dark Web that make it an ideal haven for users wishing to remain anonymous.
The underground internet has earned a reputation as a site for criminal activity and for hosting illegal content and trading in illicit goods or services. Nevertheless, law-abiding citizens can also take advantage of the darknet.
At the same time, the dangers of the deep Internet are markedly different from those of the darknet. The threat of accidentally encountering cybercriminals (which is not as likely) is not as dangerous as if the user was looking for them intentionally. Before we take a closer look at the dangers of the darknet, let's look at how and why users visit such sites.
Once upon a time, the Dark Web was populated exclusively by hackers, law enforcement, and cyber criminals. Now, with encryption and anonymization technologies like the Tor browser, every curious user can peek into the darkest corners of the Internet.
The Tor network browser (the "onion routing" project) allows users to access websites with a .onion domain. This service was originally developed in the late 1990s by the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory.
Given that the nature of the Internet was not originally meant to preserve privacy, an early version of Tor was created to protect communications between intelligence agents. Eventually, the purpose of this technology was rethought, and the result was the public browser that everyone is now familiar with. And anyone can download it for free.
Tor can be thought of as a normal browser, like Google Chrome or Firefox. But instead of building a shortcut between your computer and the deep Internet, Tor uses a random path through encrypted servers, called nodes. As a result, users can immerse themselves in the deep Internet without fear that their actions or browsing history are being tracked by someone.
These sites also use Tor (or similar programs such as I2P, the Invisible Internet Project) to remain anonymous. That is, you won't be able to find out who runs them or where they are hosted.
In a nutshell, using darknet resources does not violate the law. In fact, some of the scenarios of its use are perfectly legal and only confirm the value of the existence of the Dark Web. We can identify three specific advantages that may be of interest to users:
All of this is what attracts users to the Dark Web, who are extremely interested in remaining anonymous for their own safety. Victims of violence and harassment, whistleblowers and political dissidents are often among them. But these advantages can also be used by criminals in their illegal activities.
The conclusion from what has been said is that the legitimacy of the Dark Web depends only on the actions of its users. At the same time they can also deviate a little from strict adherence to the law, balancing on the brink when it comes to the protection of personal liberty. Some may also resort to illegal measures in a situation where the safety of another person is threatened. Consider the use of the Tor browser and Dark Web resources in both contexts.
When it comes to the software itself, using Tor and other anonymous browsers is not considered completely illegal. These tools can be used for more than just accessing the darknet. Many users use Tor to securely browse publicly available sites and select deep web resources.
Tor allows us to maintain our privacy on the Web. In our digital age, this capability cannot be overstated. Today's corporations and government agencies track users' online activities for no legitimate reason. Some users simply do not want the government or even their internet service providers to know what they are doing on the Internet, and some may have no other choice. Residents of countries such as China or Russia with strict Internet use laws or where access is restricted can only access publicly available sites through Tor clients and virtual private networks (VPNs).
And, despite the fact that the browser itself is not prohibited by law, you can use it to commit illegal actions and thereby attract the attention of law enforcement agencies. Using Tor, you may very well illegally download copyrighted content on the deep web, distribute banned pornography, or join a community of cyberterrorists. Using a legally allowed browser does not guarantee that your actions are legal.
The Dark Web is still a gray area of the online space. Users who access the Dark Web apparently do not want to expose their actions on it.
Political opponents and outspoken supporters of ideas hated by the ruling powers may be extremely cautious about preserving their online anonymity, because otherwise their safety could be threatened. And victims of violence are unlikely to want to share personal correspondence about their abusive relationship with their aggressors. If the laws in your country prohibit an activity, it would be a crime to engage in it.
However, anonymity has a downside because criminals and hackers also prefer to stay in the shadows. For example, cybercriminals and smugglers know the likely consequences of their illegal activities. It is for this reason that they hide out in the anonymous expanses of the darknet.
Browsing shady resources is not really breaking the law, but it can serve you poorly. Yes, these activities are not illegal, but in your journey through the darknet, you may find yourself dangerously close to highly questionable activities. To avoid unnecessary risk, you should be cautious or understand such matters at a sufficiently high level. So, what kind of illegal activity is the darknet used for?
If you intend to resort to the possibilities of the darknet to protect your privacy, you must be wondering how dangerous it is to appear there. Unfortunately, the darknet remains quite a dangerous place. Listed below are some common threats you may encounter there.
The Dark Web is simply teeming with malware. It's not uncommon for certain portals to offer them to malicious users to carry out cyberattacks. But more than that, malicious programs lurk in every corner of the darknet and can infect the computers of unsuspecting users in much the same way as they do on the public Internet.
On the darknet, website owners are not as concerned about user safety as they are with the rest of the Internet. Therefore, darknet users are extremely vulnerable to types of malware such as:
When deciding to use the resources of the Dark Web, you inevitably run the risk of being the target of hacker attacks or something worse. Your workplace protection software can save you from most cyberthreats.
Infecting your computer or your network can bode ill for you, not just in the digital realm, but in real life as well. Tor and the features of the Dark Web certainly help keep you anonymous, but you can still be tracked. Any activity on the web leaves virtual traces that an attacker with the necessary skills can use to uncover your identity.
It's not uncommon for the police to go after Tor sites around the world, so there's a real danger of drawing the attention of government agencies simply by visiting a site on the Dark Web.
Illegal drug sites such as Silk Road have been known to be intercepted by police. Using special software to infiltrate such sites and analyze their activity, custodians can identify both regular customers and bystanders. Even if you've never bought anything, you could be under surveillance. This can come up later at the most inopportune moment.
By visiting such sites, you risk drawing attention to your other activities as well. Bypassing government restrictions to explore opposition ideology can lead to jail time in some countries. China uses its "Great Firewall" to restrict access to popular websites for precisely this reason. Visiting forbidden content in this country carries the risk of being put on a sanctions list or straight to jail.
Some services, such as professional "hit men," may in fact be fraudulent schemes to defraud customers. According to reports, the darknet offers many illegal services, from contract killings to sex trafficking to gunrunning.
Some such service providers have long been entrenched on the darknet and are therefore well known to their audiences. Others may simply take advantage of the fame of the darknet to extort large sums of money from users. In addition, some dwellers on the darknet may try to steal your personal data with phishing scams in order to blackmail you later
Any user of the Web, whether a business owner or a concerned parent, should take steps to protect their personal information and privacy from the threats of the Dark Web.
Tracking identity theft attempts is essential if you want to protect your personal information from scammers. There are a wide variety of personal information of users for sale on the Internet by criminals. Darknet marketplaces are offering stolen passwords, physical addresses, bank account numbers and social security numbers to their customers at any time. You probably already know that attackers can use this data to undermine your credibility, steal your money, or infiltrate your other accounts. Your personal information could also fall into the hands of those who want to damage your reputation through social engineering techniques.
Anti-malware and virus protection tools are equally important in preventing your information from being used by attackers. The Dark Web knows many cases of users whose computers have been infected with malware stealing information. Criminals can use tools such as keyloggers to collect your data so that they can then access your accounts from anywhere in the world. Workplace protection programs can protect you from both identity theft and viruses.
Unless you plan to break the law or have a good reason to use darknet resources, you should take care of your security first.