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The Basics of the Dark Web

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By: Prasanna Peshkar

August 30, 2021

There's a lot of talk, notions, and sleight-of-hand about the dark web. Usually, when the dark web is mentioned, users assume that it is essentially about illegal exercises. Although there's some truth to this, the dark web has many unique and wonderful things, too. To access these amazing resources, one should understand how to access and manage the dark web securely. There are many misunderstandings about the dark web that require clarification. This post is all about what the dark web is. Let's take a look at it in more detail.

What is the Dark Web?

The dark web is the secret accumulation of internet sites only available by a specific web browser. It is utilized for keeping internet activity anonymous and secret. The use of the dark web is significant in both legal and illegal applications. While some utilize it to avoid government restrictions, others use it for illegal actions.

In other words, the dark web is an area where websites are neither available to nor listed by search engines. The dark web hosts many forums and markets that carry narcotics, weapons, illegal materials, books, analysis, exploits, to name some. The dark web is a mysterious area of the internet. It can't be discovered by regular browsers and is only accessible by VPNs or special anonymizing browsers, like Tor.

The dark web can seem complicated for many people because of its dubious characteristics. People use the dark web for different purposes. Security researchers use the dark web to obtain perspicacity into malicious security exercises. They also use facts obtained from the dark web to secure their businesses. Police officials use the dark web to obtain details about unlawful activities like drug or weapons sales or other illegal material trade. On the other hand, journalists use the dark web to exercise free expression and whistleblowing. Other people use the dark web to explore unique books and analyses that are not easily accessible on the clear web.

When people talk about the dark web, they're normally talking about onion websites, which are difficult to find via Google or any other standard browser. On the surface web (regular web), domains such as www.wikipedia.org are interpreted into their real IP addresses via the domain name system (DNS).

Deep Web vs. Dark Web

The Internet runs 24 hours a day. But the so-called "noticeable" Internet (aka, surface web or open web) — websites that can be obtained by utilizing search engines like Google — is just a sliver of the full scope. Several terms are circling the non-visible Web, but it's worth understanding how they change.

For example, the words "deep web" and "dark web" are often utilized interchangeably, but they are different. Deep web means websites that are not listed and, hence, not available via a search engine like Google. Deep web content involves anything protected by a paywall or needs sign-in details. It also covers any data that its owners have limited web crawlers from indexing.

The Deep Web resides under the surface web and contains almost 90% of all websites. This would equate to the portion of an iceberg under the water, much bigger than the surface web. The deep web is extremely large, and it is tricky to find exactly how many websites there are on the deep web to date.

By contrast, the Dark Web is rather small: Dark Web websites count only in the thousands. The websites on the Dark Web are identified by their use of encryption software that promises to keep their users and their places anonymous.

Some of the reasons why unlawful activity is so well-known on the Dark Web are:

  • Users can hide their identities.
  • The owners of unauthorized websites can hide their location.
  • Data can be sent anonymously.

How to access the dark web

Users can use various tools like Tor Browser, Sub-graph OS, Waterfox, Invisible Internet Project, or Tails to access the dark web. The most common and simple method is to use the Tor browser. Tor is an easy-to-use tool because of its built-in security and proxy connection. Tor Browser is like Firefox (web browser), but it drives traffic within the TOR network, so users cannot be traced as easily as if they used other browsers like Chrome or Internet Explorer. Tor browser also has a characteristic to reconfigure (reset) the whole browser to erase all logs and evidence of activity. Resetting the Tor browser every 5-10 minutes is extreme but useful if users believe they do not have enough security on their machine.

Unlike regular browsers, the Tor Browser uses onion routing, which employs encryption and manages traffic through various servers worldwide, keeping the user's IP address anonymous by enabling private searching. All websites on the Tor network close with the top-level domain ".onion" (instead of ".com"). The multiple layers of an onion describe the various layers of encryption and isolation in the Tor network.

Many skilled "white hats" and "black hats" use DuckDuckGo as their search engine. The great thing about this search engine is that it is available on both the surface and dark web. The only difference is that the onion version of DuckDuckGo is used for the dark web.

Is it illegal to visit the dark web?

No, it is not unlawful to visit the dark web. Some uses are judicial and maintain the benefit of the "dark web." As such, the dark web has brought many people who would otherwise be threatened by exposing their identities online. Abuse and torture sufferers, whistleblowers, and political agitators have been regular users of these buried sites. But, of course, these advantages can be easily accessed by those who crave to behave in explicitly unlawful ways.

When observed through these spectacles, the dark web's legitimacy is based on how users use it. They might come on the grounds of judicial principles for necessary reasons for the security of freedom. Others may work in ways that are unlawful and injurious to the security and protection of others.

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