As you have undoubtedly heard, the dark web is a hotbed of cybercriminal activity because it is the area of the Internet not indexed by search engines. In a study conducted by the College of London in 2015, researchers found that 57 percent of dark websites hosted illegal material. The indexed websites we visit daily are part of the surface web. The deep web consists of cloud services, ebanking, email servers, and other websites with sensitive information. However, part of the deep web is the scariest part of the Internet, the encrypted dark web.
The dark web is essentially the stuff users don’t see on the Internet, and while it may not be directly linked to the deep web, it falls best under that category. The purpose of the dark web is to give users almost complete anonymity. For this reason, dark websites do not have the formatted links users from the surface web are used to seeing. Instead, dark websites use a scrambled grouping of characters the average person would have difficulty memorizing.
The content is fairly like searching the regular web, including shops, message boards, news sites, and portals. Even dark web search engines are not as effective as Google and Bing because websites are constantly changing their address, given the material they are hosting. The result is a slower but more secure environment. Money is also anonymous within the dark web realm, so using a PayPal account or credit card is replaced with a cryptocurrency like Bitcoin.
Given its high level of encryption and design of anonymity, the dark web cannot be accessed using traditional software and browsers. Instead, you must use specialized browsers like I2R (Invisible Internet Project) or Tor (The Onion Routing), and no special operating system or coding skill is required.
Dark web links always end with a .onion suffix because you are physically peeling the layers off the visible web to find its true hidden content. These specialized browsers randomize your IP address after every clicked link to create an almost untraceable network. That means those looking to conceal their online identities, such as journalists or military personnel reporting from war zones or those involved in nefarious activities, can use the dark web daily.
The myth is that the dark web is illegal to access. Countless sites do not violate any laws, although they may be objectionable. There are plenty of blogs, forums, social media sites, and streaming shows that cover various topics like sports and politics, none of which are illegal. Some utilize the dark web as a safety precaution as they are concerned with hackers or other online individuals stealing their identity. The dark web offers excellent encryption, so some users feel safer in this space.
However, there are plenty of illegal activities on the dark web for the same reason – anonymity and confidentiality. The Silk Road was a market, launched in 2011, that was shut down in 2013 by the FBI because of drug trafficking through the dark web in exchange for Bitcoin. One myth about the dark web is assassins for hire for as little as $5,000. However, there is no proof of an actual hit attempt. Instead, scammers just kept the money in exchange for nothing. Another myth is the ability to witness horrors and depravities on dark websites. The dark web does not allow live streaming, so this is impossible.
Many who go to the dark web return disappointed because they find another grouping of websites with similar content to the surface web. Once that mysterious curtain is opened, you are left with a community of scammers and Bitcoin transactions.
Anthony holds dual degrees in Electrical Engineering and Computer Science from NYU.
He has over 30 years of experience in hardware design and software programming. Anthony specializes in computer and cloud networking and has collaborated with clients and third parties on creating custom software designs and is a web presence and accessibility compliance expert.